The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Garland County for the week of Jan. 10-17 of 815 was a record high for the third-straight week, but with the holidays behind us, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby is hopeful that the county is at or near its peak for the pandemic.
Shelby said at the Jan. 18 meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force that of the new cases reported, some could have been from previous weeks. There were 8,805 total test results added to the Arkansas Department of Health database from Garland County, which Shelby said is more than double any previous weekly total. He said he thinks a majority of these were negative results from over the holidays. This brought the county’s positive rate of infection down to just 9.3%, from the previous week’s 25%. Shelby said a better measure would be an average of the past two weeks, which comes to 13.1%.
Despite the higher number of positive test results, there was a decline in the number of active cases in the county. At the time of the meeting Monday morning, Garland County had 807 active cases, down from 841 at the same time the previous week.
There was a record-high 18 deaths reported last week, bringing the cumulative total for the county to 185.
Distribution across the county continues to be widespread. Hot Springs Village remained near its high of 75 active cases at 72; Mountain Pine remained at 17; Royal was at 35, down from 41; Pearcy rose from 23 to 25; Lonsdale was up three to 12; and Jessieville was at 25, down from 28.
The school superintendents in attendance shared they are beginning to see their numbers go down from last week and the holidays. Many school staffers in the county were being vaccinated at a clinic at CHI St. Vincent on Monday. Some districts are coordinating vaccination clinics at their schools.
Due to the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at CHI, their task force representatives were not able to attend the meeting. National Park Medical Center shared that they continue to have high numbers of COVID-19 patients.
The vaccination rollout continues in Phase 1-A, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson opened a portion of Phase 1-B – individuals 70-and-older and education workers (including childcare, K-12 and higher education) – to those who can begin receiving the vaccine starting Jan. 18. Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney said that the vaccine distribution continues to be a fluid process, with pharmacies and hospitals in charge of receiving shipments from the state not knowing if/how many they will be receiving each week. He said there is a good plan in place for vaccination events once the county receives an ample supply. For updates and information on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Arkansas and Garland County, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine or https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-vaccination-plan. As the vaccination distribution progresses, it is important to remember that the virus mitigation efforts of wearing a face mask, socially distancing and washing of hands needs to continue.
The Garland County Health Unit provided COVID-19 tests for 176 individuals. Those wishing to be tested are advised to call ahead to schedule an appointment at 501-624-3394. When arriving for an appointment for COVID testing, individuals should park their vehicle in a parking space reserved by a numbered cone, stay inside their vehicle and call to inform the representatives which number is indicated on the cone. The local health units do not currently have the COVID vaccine available, but are still providing the 2020 flu vaccination on a walk-in basis to those who would like to receive it. The 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.
Task force representatives discussed the importance of supervisors continuing to encourage employees to follow virus mitigation efforts (wearing a mask, socially distancing and washing hands), which are common to most workplaces, when they are away from work. For those who are symptomatic, it is imperative to be tested and enter quarantine/isolation, rather than to report into work and risk spreading the virus to others in the same department.
The United Way of the Ouachitas has an application for COVID-19 assistance for area families and individuals affected by the pandemic 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.