With the active cases in Garland County at an all-time high for the second straight week and the greatest percentage of cases being in the most vulnerable population, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby fears that COVID-related deaths in the county will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“I don’t think anyone could not take this pandemic seriously now,” said Shelby. “With this much virus in the community, we have to do everything we can to slow it down.”
COVID-19 statistics for Garland County for the week of Oct. 26 – Nov. 1 include active cases up to 299, up from the previous week’s record high for the county of 247. Approximately 115 of the active cases come from three nursing home outbreaks, helping push the percentage of the county’s cases among the susceptible 65-and-older age group to 47% of the county’s total cases.
CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs reported their coronavirus patient counts have increased over the past week.
The total test count last week dropped below 2,000 at 1,982, and the positivity rate for the week again rose, up from 8.1% to 9.1%.
To help improve access to COVID-19 testing, including minority groups and those who are impoverished or are experiencing homelessness, there is a COVID-19 testing event from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the Hot Springs Farmer’s & Artisan’s Market, 121 Orange Street. There will be no out-of-pocket costs for the testing. Anyone taking the COVID test will also be eligible to receive a free flu vaccine. UAMS will test anyone 16 years or older, up to the first 200 people. For those experiencing homelessness, following their COVID-19 screening there will be a mobile shower unit provided by the City of Hot Springs and operated by the Shower Ministry at the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Hot Springs.
The distribution in the county showed that the Garland County portion of Hot Springs Village dropped from eight to just one case; Pearcy rose from seven to 11 cases; and Royal went up from one to seven cases.
Cases among those with Spanish surnames continued to be flat with 11 current cases, or 3.9% of the county’s total case count. The 0-17 group went down again this week to 18 cases, or 6.4% of the county’s total.
School district representatives, who were applauded for their continued efforts to keep schools operational and safe, credited a strict adherence to the public health guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education. Contact tracing continues to show that the small number of positive cases or probable contacts among students, teachers and staff has come from community spread rather than from within the schools.
City and county officials, concerned about the increasing cases, are working together again to add to the local stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Garland County Health Unit continues to have antigen test supplies, but they are reserved for students, teachers and school staff who are exhibiting symptoms. The clinic collected 94 COVID-19 specimen last week, and they administered 49 flu vaccinations, along with completing the flu shot clinic at the Hot Springs School District. Poll workers will be given priority COVID-19 PCR testing, as needed. The Garland County Health Unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday – Friday. Tuesday hours are 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. It is recommended to call ahead to schedule COVID-19 testing at 501-624-3394.
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) has seen an influx of incoming calls for assistance from area families, similar to call volumes from early in the pandemic from those in need of rental assistance or food. The application for COVID-19 assistance is online at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. To donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, visit www.bit.ly/UWO-COVID, call 501-623-2505 or send a check by mail at 233 Hobson Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913.