Although a significant number of active COVID-19 cases remain in Garland County, the trend of new cases is on a downward slope as vaccinations continue for Phase 1-A groups and the start of Phase 1-B – education workers and those 70 and older.
Along with the weekly recap of statistics by Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby, the Jan. 25 meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force included reports and discussion among the task force relating to area hospitals, schools, first responders, community/government and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Cody Turner, pharmacist at Village Health Mart East Gate Pharmacy who is helping coordinate and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Garland County, gave a vaccination update. He said their pharmacy completed 2,500 vaccinations in the county last week, which included two vaccination clinics for those age 70 and older and three clinics at school districts for teachers and staff. He and County Judge Mahoney said that distribution in the county is still very fluid and all dependent on the amount of doses provided weekly from the state. Turner said their pharmacy has received national attention in terms of vaccine distribution by being able to complete 1,000 inoculations a day. He feels with their system they could complete as many as 3,000 a day, if such a supply for the county were provided by the state.
CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs (CHI) also hosted COVID-19 vaccination clinics last week for the current groups in the state’s distribution plan. For links to register for COVID-19 vaccination waiting lists and for vaccine updates in Garland County, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine. For statewide vaccine updates, visit 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.
Shelby reported there were 495 new COVID-19 cases reported in Garland County for the week of Jan. 10-17, or an average of 70 per day, which is down significantly from the total the previous week of 815, or 116 a day. Shelby said the current downward trend began after the peak between the second and third weeks in January.
The total number of test results last week for the county was 3,297, making the rate of positivity 15%. The number of active cases at the time of the Monday morning meeting was 711, down 96 from the same time the previous week.
The number of COVID-related deaths in the county was 10 for the week. Shelby said that although this marked the fourth straight week of a double-digit death total, last week’s total was lower than the three previous weeks.
Distribution in the county shows improvement in Hot Springs Village, which fell from 72 active cases to 41 at the time of the meeting; Jessieville, which went from 25 to seven; and Mountain Pine, which dropped from 17 to six.
CHI reported they are having some of their lowest numbers of COVID-19 patients. After seeing a slight reduction last week, they were hopeful it would continue into this week, and are thankful that it has. National Park Medical Center shared that their COVID numbers are holding steady, with possibly a slight increase in patients. Their employee case numbers have decreased, however – a trend they hope will continue as the vaccination program progresses.
Similar to the hospitalization reports, updates from area school superintendents varied with some seeing a reprieve from the post-holiday surge and others still experiencing relatively high numbers. Two common trends were the need to continue to encourage all constituents – students, families and staff – to remain diligent regarding the quarantine/isolation rules and to be open to the scientific data regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
The Garland County Health Unit provided COVID-19 tests for 131 individuals last week. 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.
The United Way of the Ouachitas will begin their free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will being on Saturday, Feb. 6, and run through April 15. They continue to have 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.