At the March 29 virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force, representatives planned ways to increase the county’s percentage of people who are fully vaccinated from the current 14% of all residents and 39% of the 65-and-older age group.
“We are still seeing a reluctance of people wanting to come forward and get the vaccine countywide. We reached out to every group that we can think to reach out to…and we are just not getting the numbers that we need to see in order to get a lot more immunized,” said County Judge Darryl Mahoney. “We’ve got the vaccine available, and we just need some arms to put it in.”
There are COVID-19 vaccination clinics every Tuesday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Ouachita Professional Building (Fordyce Room), 1900 Malvern Avenue, through a partnership between National Park Medical Center and Village Health Mart/East Gate Pharmacy. Vaccines are available at no cost 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.
CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs is offering COVID vaccinations five days a week at three different Hot Springs clinic locations. Patients can visit www.chistvincent.com/getmyshot or call 501-622-6556 to begin the scheduling process. Registration will call the patient back to schedule an appointment time.
For more information about the vaccine phases or distribution in the county, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine.
Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby shared that, like the recent national trend, the county experienced a slight uptick in new cases last week, despite having fewer tests. In his COVID statistic update for the week of March 21-28, he shared there were 47 new cases, or 6.7 cases per day, compared to the previous week’s 41 total cases/5.9 per day average. The total number of test results for the county was 1,471, which Shelby said is the lowest it has been in months. The rate of positivity was 3.2%, up from the previous week’s 2.3%. The number of active cases at the time of the meeting was 32, down from 69 at the same time the previous week; however, Shelby said this might be a result of fewer tests being done over spring break. There were six COVID-related deaths reported last week.
In reference to distribution across the county, Shelby said that pretty much all of the active cases are now in Hot Springs or the unincorporated areas of the county.
Shelby hopes to continue to get the message out that wearing a face mask will still be considered best practice, despite the statewide mask mandate being changed to a guideline on April 1. He said that the coronavirus variant from Britain is in the state, and that it is known to be around 50% more contagious than the original version of the virus.
Both CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported each having fewer than five COVID patients at the time of the meeting.
All of the school district representatives in the meeting reported zero COVID cases among their respective staff and students, but they will be watching for new cases over the next two weeks that may arise as a result from spring break traveling/activities. Several districts shared that they will continue with their mitigation efforts, including mandating masks, through the remainder of the school year. They are also planning to work together to promote vaccinations among families in their districts.
The Garland County Health Unit provided COVID-19 tests for 16 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.
Andrew Coker, economic resiliency coordinator at the West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District, Inc. (WCAPDD), shared that COVID Economic Recovery and Community Resilience Planning Sessions are scheduled for Sept. 28, 2021, in Hot Springs. The WCAPDD has been working with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute and the Delta Center for Economic Development on these sessions. Even those who may not feel they are involved in economic development, Coker said they will find something in these sessions to take back and improve on. For more information, contact Coker at firstname.lastname@example.org.