Garland County’s COVID-19 numbers continue to be on a great downward trend, according to Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby, but residents need to remember that the virus is still here and that the vaccines are key to returning to normalcy.
During the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force virtual meeting on March 22, several representatives expressed concern over hesitancy in the public to get a vaccine. Shelby encouraged a big push for educating the public about how important the vaccine is to ending the pandemic, particularly as Hot Springs and Garland County are welcoming crowds of spring break visitors. Each of the vaccines being administered have been proven to prevent severe illness and death related to COVID-19, as well as greatly reducing the chance of catching the virus, Shelby said in referencing studies done on the vaccines. As vaccines are becoming more available, he and others on the task force hope individuals will take advantage when they have an opportunity to be vaccinated.
National Park Medical Center will be partnering with Village Health Mart/East Gate Pharmacy to provide COVID-19 vaccination clinics weekly from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Fordyce Room, located on the first floor of the Ouachita Professional Building at 1900 Malvern Avenue. Vaccines will be available to anyone who meets the criteria according to the Arkansas Department of Health’s phased distribution plan, which currently includes Phase 1-A, 1-B and 1-C. Appointments are required for the vaccine clinics, which will start with the Pfizer vaccine. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.eastgatepharmacy.com/covid-19-vaccine-scheduler. Appointments will only become visible four days prior to the vaccine clinic day. Clinics will continue for several weeks as vaccines continue to be available and there continues to be a community need.
For more information about the vaccine phases or distribution in the county, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine.
In Shelby’s COVID statistic update for the week of March 14-21, he shared there were 41 new cases, or 5.9 cases per day, which is well below the previous week’s 115 total cases/16.4 per day average. The total number of test results for the county was 1,803, compared to the previous week’s total of 2,011. The rate of positivity was 2.3%, down from the previous week’s 5.7%. The number of active cases at the time of the meeting was 69, down from 109 at the same time the previous week. There were five COVID-related deaths reported last week. Distribution across the county continues to decline as there are only three active cases in Hot Springs Village, three in Royal and one in Lonsdale. Shelby said the county’s weekly numbers have not been this low since last July.
Both CHI St. Vincent (CHI) and National Park Medical Center were happy to report COVID patient numbers continue to be low. Monoclonal antibody infusion treatments are still available for members of the community referred from their physician. The treatment keeps high-risk patients, including those who are 65-and-older and with co-morbidities, from developing severe cases of COVID-19 that would require hospitalization. CHI shared that among those who received the treatment at their facility, only 4% ended up needing treatment in the hospital.
The Garland County Health Unit provided COVID-19 tests for 23 individuals last week. Those wishing to be tested are advised to park their vehicle in a parking space reserved by a numbered cone, stay inside their vehicle and call 501-624-3394 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 Arkansas Department of Health is providing vaccine pop-up clinics across the state. For more information and to schedule an appointment at such a clinic, call 1-800-985-6030. The health unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open, weather permitting, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday – Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) continues to assist those needing to file tax returns to access their stimulus money. The UWO Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will be available through April 15, 2021, and appointments can be made by calling 501-623-2505. The UWO also continues 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.