After six weeks of stable COVID-19 statistics in Garland County, there seems to be a gradual uptick with last week’s numbers higher than they have been in two months, County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby shared with the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force at its May 16 virtual meeting.
Shelby’s Garland County COVID statistic report for the week of May 8 – 15 included 30 new cases, or an average of 4.3 per day, which is up from the previous weeks’ daily averages of 2.6 and 3. There were 624 reported tests, and the positivity rate was up to 4.8%, compared to previous weeks’ 3% and 3.8%. Active cases rose by 13 to 49, at the time of the meeting, which is the highest it has been since early March. There were no reported COVID-19 deaths last week; the cumulative total of COVID-related deaths, 510, has not increased for the past month.
Shelby explained that the county’s statistics are mirroring those from the state, where COVID cases are on the rise. He said that though there are increased numbers, statewide hospitalizations and deaths are staying low. He added that as we go into summer, people generally do not stay inside as much and are, therefore, less likely to spread the virus.
Since case numbers have been down, Shelby said he has been asked if testing and isolation continue to be important.
“If someone has any respiratory symptoms or has been in contact with someone who is positive, I strongly urge testing. It’s easy to do and there are lots of ways to get tested. Then, if people are positive, they really do need to isolate for five days, even if they have no symptoms. We can’t forget that this virus is still around and we have had 510 deaths in our county over the last two years,” said Shelby.
Hospital representatives from CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported only one hospitalized COVID patient at the time of the meeting.
Likewise, there was only one active COVID case reported among the county’s seven public school district’s representatives, each of which shared pleasant feelings about the schools being able to hold normal end-of-year activities, such as graduation ceremonies.
The Garland County Health Unit continues to provide free COVID testing, available by appointment only until 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and until noon on Fridays. To make an appointment, call 501-624-3394.
The following COVID vaccines are available at the health unit: pediatric (ages 5 – 18) and adult-dose Pfizer, the initial and booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and booster doses for ages 16-17. No appointments are needed for these vaccines or boosters.
The health unit also continues to offer its full range of health services inside its facility, such as family planning appointments during the week between Monday through Thursday. The health unit continues to have a high volume of cases relating to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Appointments are required for STD testing and counseling. The health unit has also been working to ensure that the families it serves with infants continue to have formula amid the nationwide shortage.
The health unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday through Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) recently received the green light to again host in-person Stuff the Bus school supply collections at area Walmart stores on tax-free weekend in August, an event that had to be canceled since the start of the pandemic. The UWO continues to have an online application for COVID-19 assistance for area families and individuals affected by the pandemic 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.
The task force will forego meetings during the summer months, with the understanding that special meetings can be called, as well as a return to more frequent meetings, should the need arise. Shelby will continue to provide his weekly COVID statistic updates.