Garland County’s COVID-19 active case count rose from less than 30 in mid-May to a high point of 129 on May 25, before starting to decline.
At the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force’s June 7 meeting, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby said that the numbers for the week of May 30 – June 6 are an improvement on the previous week’s, but that the lower case counts are due in large part to the fewer tests being done during the holiday week. Looking back to the week following Memorial Day in 2020, there were only four active cases in Garland County before a spike in cases in mid- and late-June of last year.
“I think we have to anticipate that we will have some increases in cases, but we hope that the vaccinations are really going to make a big difference. And we certainly need to continue moving forward with vaccinations as that’s really the only way we’ll be able to slow and be able to eliminate the virus in our community,” said Shelby.
Contrary to misinformation that might be shared on social media, “the vaccinations have proven to have a higher efficacy, fewer side effects and a longer duration of immunity than anyone would have hoped for a year ago,” Shelby explained. “They are great vaccines, if we can just get everyone to take them,” he said.
Members of the task force discussed incorporating individuals who have contracted COVID after considering but not taking the vaccine, as they may be good spokespersons to promote increasing inoculations. A public relations push before the return to school in August was also mentioned, which could include the vaccination benefit of not being required to quarantine after exposure to a COVID-positive individual, saving parents from having to miss work or students having to miss school and school athletic events.
“People say, ‘We want to get back to normal.’ The best way to get back to normal is to get vaccinated. And we need to continue to emphasize that this is a deadly disease. We have had 263 people in Garland County alone die from this over the last year. We have had 600,000 Americans die from this. Every death from now on is a preventable death,” said Shelby.
CHI is continues to offer COVID vaccinations five days a week. Patients can visit www.chistvincent.com/getmyshot or call 501-622-6556 to begin the scheduling process.
Other vaccination locations, some of which are offering walk-ins, include the following:
For additional vaccination information, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine.
In his COVID-19 statistic update, Shelby shared that there were 35 new cases reported in Garland County last week. There were 488 tests completed, making the rate of positivity 7.2%, down from 11.5% the previous week. The number of active cases at the time of the meeting was 56, a decrease of 38 from the same time the previous week. There were two additional COVID-related deaths reported last week.
At the time of the meeting, there was a total of 11 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center.
Educational institution representatives reported having few cases in recent weeks, and were thankful for not having to quarantine because of mask policies and vaccinations. Several school districts are seeing higher summer school enrollment numbers following the learning challenges from this past school year.
The Garland County Health Unit continues to offer COVID-19 testing. Those wanting a COVID test 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 health unit is administering the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for ages 18 and older, and appointments can be made by calling the aforementioned number. They also have the state’s vaccination incentives – a $20 Arkansas Scholarship Lottery scratch-off ticket or an Arkansas Game and Fish license certificate – for anyone 18 and older who brings their COVID vaccination card to show their last shot was received after May 25. The health unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open 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 has seen an uptick in individuals needing food box assistance from those affected by COVID. They are also helping those who are applying for rent/utility assistance. Their application for COVID-19 assistance for area families and individuals affected by the pandemic 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.