In his weekly report to the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force, Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby shared on Monday, Dec. 27, that there continues to be significant spread of the virus locally as the positivity rate “soared to 31.5%” last week.
For the week of Dec. 19 – 26, Garland County had 284 new positive cases for an average of 40.6 per day. This compares to the 157 and 101 new case totals from the previous two weeks, or 22.4 and 14.4 per day. Garland County’s active cases were at 182 as of Monday morning, up only 15 from the previous Monday. With only 903 test results reported, the 31.5% positivity rate was the highest so far throughout the pandemic, surpassing the previous high of 25.9% for the week ending on Jan. 10, 2021. The county’s COVID death toll also rose by nine to 420. This is the highest weekly death total since the week ending on Nov. 1, 2021, when the county had 10 COVID-related deaths.
“Though this rapid spread is most likely influenced or even caused by the omicron variant, which has not been definitively determined in Arkansas yet. But, with it and the holidays, I would be surprised if this trend doesn’t continue,” said Shelby. “With this raging spread, I think it is only a matter of time before we see significant increases in our hospitalizations and deaths. Fortunately, studies are showing that omicron variant causes milder disease, but we have such a high percentage of unvaccinated people I think our health facilities will be greatly impacted.”
One new issue Shelby sees going forward is the increasing prevalence of home testing. Since most of these results are not reported, the new case numbers will likely be less accurate than they have been in the past.
Shelby continues to strongly encourage vaccinations and the wearing of masks anytime you are around people you don’t know or who may be at risk of being infected.
The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force meets bi-weekly, and Shelby provides a weekly Garland County COVID statistic update for the task force.