(07/21/20) Garland County virus cases more than double in past week

Garland County virus cases more than double in past week

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and those under investigation more than doubled this past week from 90 on July 12 to 188 on July 19, and the number of active cases went from 65 to 150.

“Garland County is certainly in the mix of this pandemic,” said Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby at the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force virtual meeting on July 20. “With this many new cases, there are going to be a lot of asymptomatic carriers in our community, so we all need to continue to get the message out about wearing masks. This is how the pandemic spreads – it doubles one week, then doubles again the next week.”

There were 971 test results from Garland County received by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) during this past week, and the positivity rate was 9.3%, up from 6.4% the previous week. There were 90 new cases, which averages out to 12.8 per day. Shelby noted that in June, Garland County would go a whole week without having 12 new cases. He added that we started to see this spike 9-10 days after the July 4 holiday.

The new cases are spread throughout the county, and the age distribution is getting younger. Four weeks ago, the 65-and-older age group consisted of 30% of the cases, which is now down to 17%. There has been an increase in those less than 25 years of age, up from 17% four weeks ago to 24%. “There are a number of teenagers who are positive in the community, which is something we need to keep an eye on as we approach the opening of schools,” said Shelby.

There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals testing positive who have a Spanish surname – a total of 31, or 16.5% of the cases. The task force is exploring ways to better reach out to the Hispanic community with information about the coronavirus. ADH has a Spanish COVID-19 Call Center at 1-800-803-7847, which is available weekdays from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The after-hours number is 1-800-554-5738. Emails can also be sent to ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov.

The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center at 501-760-4307 again reported an increase in calls. A majority of callers are requesting rapid response tests, either for work, travel or other reasons. Since rapid testing supplies are limited, these tests are being held for first responders and others who meet specific criteria.

The Garland County Health Unit had another successive record-breaking week for their testing numbers, with 159. They strongly recommend calling ahead to schedule an appointment for testing at 501-624-3394.

Both hospitals – National Park Medical Center (NPMC) and CHI St. Vincent – reported that their numbers have remained about the same as the previous couple of weeks. NPMC did share good news that they currently do not have any patients requiring the use of a ventilator.

Representatives from the various institutions and entities reported how they were enacting at their facilities the governor’s executive order requiring the wearing of face masks indoors and outdoors when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

The United Way of the Ouachitas application for individuals and families who have suffered loss of employment as a result of COVID-19 is online at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. Applicants can choose from assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. 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.