COVID-19 Hot Springs Updates

homepage news - Covid task forceWith the rapidly evolving scenarios associated with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the City of Hot Springs strives to keep our community abreast of all updates related to our local task force, City and City department updates and any information that may be of assistance.


Listed below in chronological order are recent press releases and updates, which will be updated regularly.


(06/05/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 226 to 8,651  The following stats were shared Friday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 8,651 total confirmed cases, up 226 from 8,425 on Thursday.
  • 152 deaths, up one from Thursday.
  • 147 cases requiring hospitalization, up 10 from Thursday.
  • 138 cases in Garland County, no change from Thursday.
  • 132 recoveries in Garland County, no change from Thursday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

Not all of the usual COVID-19 stats were made available at the news conference, including the new and total number of active cases, new and total number of recoveries and new and total number of cases on a ventilator. The breakdown of new cases by region and counties with the highest numbers were also not provided.

There were a total of 3,846 test results processed in the past 24 hours, and the current positivity rate for yesterday is 3.1%. Hutchinson pointed out that the positivity rate over the past 40 days has only exceeded the 10% mark one time. He also shared statistics relating to testing across Arkansas, and said that the data reveals they are “really testing in every region of the state, and it gives us a good sense in terms of where we are in terms of the spread of COVID-19.” He said this was a key factor in the idea of reopening with a regional approach. More information will be shared about this on Monday.

The governor and Dr. Nate Smith provided a breakdown of the contact tracing efforts from the 190 new cases reported on June 1. A total of 144 of the individuals were successfully contacted; 29 were unable to be contacted; and 17 are pending assignment for case investigation. Of those contacted, 87 had successful contact tracing and 222 contacts were identified. The governor explained that means a total of 412 “lives were touched by these cases,” and they have to isolate and quarantine. There were 115 who were linked with other known cases or clusters. Of those contacted, there were still insignificant numbers of those visiting barber shops, gyms and other places where restrictions have been lifted.

There are currently close to 240 individuals working on contact tracing with the Arkansas Department of Health, but Smith said that next week an additional 100 volunteers from various organizations who have stepped up to assist will be trained in contact tracing. Also, within a couple of months they expect to more than double their full-time contact tracing capabilities as today a request for qualifications went out to contract with an organization to provide an additional 350 contact tracers and everything they need to be successful.

The governor noted the peaceful demonstrations across the state, and that he has been pleased with the use of face masks. He said that when a person asks him, “What do we need to do to help you to beat COVID-19?” that he simply responds, “Take it seriously, every day, and don’t let down on your discipline and your awareness of this virus and the damage that it can do. And, beyond that, let’s live life; let’s just live it carefully and manage the risks.”

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(06/04/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 358 to 8,425  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 8,425 total confirmed cases, up 358 from 8,067 on Wednesday.
  • 2,355 active cases, up 147 from Wednesday.
  • 5,919 recoveries, up 202 from Wednesday.
  • 151 deaths, up nine from Wednesday.
  • 137 cases requiring hospitalization, down one from Wednesday.
  • 32 cases on a ventilator, up two from Wednesday.
  • 138 cases in Garland County, up two from Wednesday.
  • 132 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Wednesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.

Of the 358 new cases announced today, 356 were from the community. There were a total of 4,350 tests results received with a positivity rate of 5.2%. Dr. Nate Smith shared his appreciation for the staff of the Arkansas Department of Health Public Health Lab as they have been working 24/7 and have brought in new technology to help in their efforts. They recorded their first day of more than 800 tests processed yesterday with a total of 824. UAMS also processed more than 300 tests.  

The Northwest region of the state continues to spike in cases. That region had 234 of the new cases in the past 24 hours, or 65.4% of the day’s total. Relating to hospitalizations, 48, or 35% of the total, are in the Northwest region. The other regions’ portions of the new cases are 37 from the Central region, or 10.3%; 31 from the Northeast region, or 8.7%; 19 from the Southwest region, or 5.3%; and 12 from the Southeast region, or 3.4%.

Hutchinson shared slides illustrating what he and Smith described as five different epidemics and timelines in the state related to the five regions. He hinted at the idea of advancing to Phase 2 of reopening and lifting of restrictions based on a regional approach, rather than the statewide perspective that has been used up to this point. He said they first need to ascertain if ample tests are being performed in each region, particularly in the Southeast where he has heard concerns of a possible lack in testing. More information will be shared next week on the regional approach.  

The counties with the highest number of cases today are Washington (111), Benton (92), Pulaski (34), Crittenden (12) and Sevier (10). A total of 50% of the individuals from today’s new cases have Spanish surnames.

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(06/03/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 8,067  The following stats were shared Wednesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 8,067 total confirmed cases, up 249 from 7,818 on Tuesday.
  • 2,208 active cases, up 93 from Tuesday.
  • 5,717 recoveries, up 150 from Tuesday.
  • 142 deaths, up six from Tuesday.
  • 138 cases requiring hospitalization, up six from Tuesday.
  • 30 cases on a ventilator, down one from Tuesday.
  • 136 cases in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.
  • 132 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Tuesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.

The increase of 245 community cases, with an additional four from correctional facilities, represents a positivity rate of 4.8% from the total number of test results received in the past 24 hours of 3,872. The counties with the highest number of cases include Pulaski (33), Washington (28), Sevier (23), Benton (20) and Crittenden (18).

The governor and Secretary Cindy Gillespie, of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, provided information about the initiative to test all of the state’s residents and staff in long-term care and congregate care settings during the month of June. Gillespie said that they have been working on guidelines for reopening these facilities to guests and for communal dining and activities. Reopening may be on an individual facility approach as many facilities have not been affected by the virus. Those that complete the testing process and meet certain criteria may be allowed to reopen with appropriate guidelines in place.

There are currently 102 active COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents, and overall the case total is at 423, or 5.2% of the total number of statewide cases. There have been 55 nursing home resident deaths, which accounts for 39% of the total COVID-19 deaths in the state. Compared to other states, Arkansas has an average of 23.6 positive cases per 1,000 nursing home residents, whereas the national average is 62/1,000. Arkansas has six resident deaths per 1,000, compared to the national average of 27.5/1,000.

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(06/02/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 7,818  The following stats were shared Tuesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 7,818 total confirmed cases, up 375 from 7,443 on Monday.
  • 2,115 active cases, up 206 from Monday.
  • 5,567 recoveries, up 166 from Monday.
  • 136 deaths, up three from Monday.
  • 132 cases requiring hospitalization, up 11 from Monday.
  • 31 cases on a ventilator, up five from Monday.
  • 136 cases in Garland County, no change from Monday.
  • 132 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Monday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Monday.

The new cases added since yesterday totaling 375, with only one from a correctional facility, is a record number of new community cases from a single day. There were a total of 3,807 tests results received, including 713 from the lab at the Arkansas Department of Health, with a positivity rate of 4.4%. Dr. Nate Smith clarified that the positivity rate, as well as the data on total tests and positive results, provided at the daily COVID-19 press conferences is preliminary data. Once all of the numbers are compiled, the positivity rates and daily totals may be adjusted. The governor and Smith shared that the testing goal for the state of Arkansas is 120,000, or 1% of the population each week.

The counties with higher number of new cases include Benton (65), Pulaski (63; 46% of new cases are from one nursing home in Jacksonville); Washington (57), Sevier (33), Craighead (21), Yell (14) and Crittenden (10).

Regionally, the Northwest and Southwest (primarily Sevier County) quadrants continue to see rises in cases while the Northeast and Southeast quadrants continue to show decreasing numbers.

The governor provided positive news from the State Revenue Report showing that in May, the state was up $80 million over the revised forecast, while being 3.4% below May 2019. Year-to-date, the state is up $287 million over the revised forecast.

Hutchinson and Dr. Jose Romero reported on the COVID-19 Latinx Stakeholder Group, which was established and began meeting in early May. It includes 28 members from public health, government, cities, health care, faith leaders, business, media and community. The group is focusing on awareness and access to testing, which is free at any local health department across the state. They also are working to ensure communication is translated and disseminated to the Latin community.

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(06/02/20)  Active COVID-19 cases in Garland County staying low  As northern parts of the state are experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases, Garland County and most of the southwest quadrant of the state seem to be fortunate as active cases are remaining low.

To maintain low numbers, the continuation to test, contact trace and quarantine positive cases was again stressed at the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force’s virtual meeting on June 1. At the time of the meeting, there were only three active cases in Garland County, down from six active cases from the previous week, according to the Arkansas Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard at healthy.arkansas.gov.

Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby said that data from the week of May 24-31 shows that the county had 328 COVID-19 tests with three positives, making the positivity rate at 1%. Fire Chief Ed Davis, COVID-19 Task Force coordinator, applauded the efforts of the local healthcare community and government officials for the early and continued efforts to mitigate the virus, saying that Garland County has fared well in comparison to other counties of comparable population.

With the summer travel season underway and visitors coming in to the lakes, downtown and other area attractions, it is not possible to completely mitigate the spread of the virus within the county. Shelby encouraged area hotels, motels and vacation rental locations, as well as local visitor centers, to make available or provide guests with a list of COVID-19 testing sites within the county so that visitors will seek out testing if they begin to experience symptoms or have concern about possible exposure. The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hot Springs has distributed the list of testing sites to the hotel/motel/rental operators last week, and the flyer is available to download, print and display/share at bit.ly/HSGC-testing-sites. The flyer includes the update that as of Monday, June 1, the three HealthStar testing sites are being consolidated to the First Care Walk-In Clinic at 120 Adcock Road, meaning the Fountain Lake and Lakeside locations will no longer be offering drive-thru testing.

Call levels have remained low at the Hot Springs/Garland County Call Center (501-760-4307). They reported having a call from an out-of-town visitor, who they directed to a local testing site. 

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) is continuing to distribute 50-pound food boxes. The UWO office is staying busy as those in need are calling or coming by their office starting each day at 8 a.m. There are funds available to assist, and the application for individuals and families who have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19 is online at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. Applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. They are also still providing free income tax preparation assistance by appointment.

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.

[Read more...]

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(06/01/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 7,443  The following stats were shared Monday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Rogers and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 7,443 total confirmed cases, up 666 from 6,777 on Friday.
  • 1,909 active cases, down 210 from Friday.
  • 5,401 recoveries, up 455 from Friday.
  • 133 deaths, up one from Friday.
  • 121 cases requiring hospitalization, up eight from Friday.
  • 26 cases on a ventilator, up two from Friday.
  • 136 cases in Garland County, no change from Friday.
  • 132 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Friday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Friday.

In the past 24 hours, there have been 190 new cases, three of which were from correctional facilities. There were a total of 3,798 test results received, and the positivity rate was 6%. The governor reported that the goal of 60,000 tests in the month of May was well exceeded with a total of 80,808 tests completed. Dr. Nate Smith was pleased to have tested more than 2% of the state’s population in May, but said his goal is to achieve 4% in June, or 120,000. He said that in Northwest Arkansas, where there are currently spikes in new cases, 281 of every 10,000 in population have been tested, which is lower than the state’s average of 442 of 10,000. “We need to do even more testing, not to drive up numbers, but to identify chains of transmission so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately save lives,” Smith said.

The governor showed statewide and Northwest region charts and pointed out how the virus has rolled across the state in different timeframes, “so you cannot take it for granted; you cannot say, ‘Well, we’re past that.’ It’s a matter of constant vigilance that we need to have.”

The governor met with some poultry industry leaders and shared that they are setting a national model for best practices in the industry. Tyson is moving to test every worker in their Northwest Arkansas plan, and Simmons Industries has health center at their plants.

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(05/29/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 6,777 

The following stats were shared Friday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

•    6,777 total confirmed cases, up 239 from 6,538 on Thursday.

•    1,699 active cases, down 131 from Thursday.

•    4,946 recoveries, up 363 from Thursday.

•    132 deaths, up seven from Thursday.

•    113 cases requiring hospitalization, up nine from Thursday.

•    24 cases on a ventilator, down three from Thursday.

•    136 cases in Garland County, up one from Thursday.

•    130 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Thursday.

•    1 death in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

The 239 new cases, two of which come from correctional facilities and 237 come from community cases. There were a total of 2,702 test results received, which puts testing for the month of May over 70,000 tests administered and they reported a positivity rate of 4.1%. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 121,302 (4% of the population) Arkansans tested so far. The counties with the highest numbers of new cases were Washington (53), Benton (48), Sevier (31), Crittenden (21) and Pulaski (15).

Dr. Nate Smith is tracking the lifting of restrictions and the whereabouts of the last 14 days for the new cases. Through the contact tracing, they discovered that the most common location is at beauty shops (2%), followed by gym or daycare (less than 1.5%), restaurants (1%), and church (less than 1%) motels and hotels (less than .5%). These are encouraging numbers that are not shown to have a connection between the re-openings and number of new cases.

Gov. Hutchinson stated that there’s not one epidemic in Arkansas but five different regional epidemics in five different stages (7 day rolling average). The northwest region has the highest amount of new cases followed by the southwest region. The northeast, Central and southeast regions are currently on a downward trend with southeast having the lowest cases per day. 

In addition to the 79 local health units testing 5 days a week, there will be events scattered around the state. The locations of the events are as followed:

  • Friday, May 29: Dardanelle
  • Saturday, May 30: Fayetteville, West Memphis, De Queen and Pine Bluff (U of A PB)
  • Saturday, June 6: Jonesboro, Wrightsville and El Dorado

Secretary Stacy Hurst announced that the state campgrounds will reopen to tent camping as well as reopen bathhouses that support campers and day-use visitors will be open effective Monday, June 1. Park Rangers and uniformed staff will be monitoring the parks and encouraging visitors to use the parks with social distancing and CDC guidelines in mind. For more information, visit arkansasready.com.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson encouraged individuals enjoying the outdoors to continue with social distancing and CDC guidelines. The Garland County Sheriff’s Office and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be monitoring the local lakes for congregations that might endanger the public health and to remind individuals about social distancing.

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(05/28/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 6,538; highest one-day jump, primarily in Hispanic population in Northwest Arkansas  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 6,538 total confirmed cases, up 261 from 6,277 on Wednesday.
  • 1,830 active cases, up 97 from Wednesday.
  • 4.583 recoveries, up 159 from Wednesday.
  • 125 deaths, up five from Wednesday.
  • 104 cases requiring hospitalization, down four from Wednesday.
  • 27 cases on a ventilator, up five from Wednesday.
  • 372 cases involving nursing home residents, up eight from Wednesday.
  • 135 cases in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 128 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.

The 261 new cases, none of which come from correctional facilities, is the highest single-day community case increase since the pandemic began. There were a total of 2,966 test results received, and they reported a positivity rate of 3.9%. The counties with the highest numbers of new cases were Benton (85), Washington (25), Pulaski (22), Crittenden (17), Craighead (12) and Sevier (11). Of the 85 in Benton County, 76% were in Rogers and 85% were from the Latino community. In Washington County, 80% were from Springdale and 40% were from the Latino community. In Sevier County, 45% are from the Latino community.

Dr. Nate Smith shared that along with the increase in the Latino community, they are also seeing more cases among younger individuals and those who are asymptomatic. The average ages of new cases are 40 in Benton County, 38 in Washington County and 26 in Craighead County. Of all of the cases so far reported, Smith said that half have reported having no symptoms at the time of being tested. Of those tested at the health units across the state for the past two weeks, where symptoms are not required to have a test done, 74% of positives have reported no symptoms.  

The governor explained that contact tracing is done on each of the new cases, and an average of 2.8 contacts per case need to be reached out to by contact tracers. That means that of the 261 new cases reported today, that could equate to 992 individuals in Arkansas who may have to be isolated and quarantined for 10-14 days. “This is another way to emphasize how important it is to control this virus and to reduce the spread because with the contact tracing, it impacts not just the case, the individual, but everybody who’s been in contact with that person who might have contracted that virus as well,” he said.

Steuart Walton, chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force, shared a few details on the task force’s interim report, which will be made available in English and Spanish tomorrow on ArkansasReady.com. Among the recommendations to the governor by the task force is an executive order by the governor to provide protection for businesses and employers. The report also includes details on prioritizing CARES Act funding for testing and tracing; childcare resources, funding and availability; workforce training; and broadband in rural areas of the state.

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(05/27/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 6,277  The following stats were shared Wednesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Jonesboro and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 6,277 total confirmed cases, up 97 from 6,180 on Tuesday.
  • 1,733 active cases, up four from Tuesday.
  • 4.424 recoveries, up 92 from Tuesday.
  • 120 deaths, up one from Tuesday.
  • 108 cases requiring hospitalization, up one from Tuesday.
  • 22 cases on a ventilator, up four from Tuesday.
  • 364 cases involving nursing home residents, up three from Tuesday.
  • 134 cases in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.
  • 128 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Tuesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.

The last 24 hours saw the second highest number of test results in the state since the onset of the pandemic at 4,033, and the positivity rate was 1.9%. There were a total of 95 community cases and two from correctional facilities.

The governor wanted everyone to pay close attention to growth rate statistics related to the age groups as the 0-17 age group has seen a 46% increase in cases from May 17-23. Other age groups and growth rates during this period include ages 18-24 at 32%; 25-44 at 26%, 45-64 at 22% and 65-and-greater at 16%.

The Northwest region of Arkansas has seen the highest jump in cases among the regions in the state with a 58% increase from May 17-23.

With the steady increases in cases and hospitalizations, Dr. Nate Smith said that they are paying close attention while doing contact tracing to new cases in relation to the reopening of businesses. Smith said they have not seen a correlation between the restrictions being lifted to the new cases. In the past 14 days, only .8% of new cases reported having dined in a restaurant; 1% have been to a barber shop; .7% to a church service; .2% to a gym; and .3% to a hotel.

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(05/26/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 6,180  The following stats were shared Tuesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 6,180 total confirmed cases, up 722 from 5,458 on Friday.
  • 1,729 active cases, up 259 from Friday.
  • 4.332 recoveries, up 303 from Friday.
  • 119 deaths, up six from Friday.
  • 107 cases requiring hospitalization, up 26 from Friday.
  • 18 cases on a ventilator, up four from Friday.
  • 361 cases involving nursing home residents, up 11 from Friday.
  • 134 cases in Garland County, up two from Friday.
  • 127 recoveries in Garland County, up four from Friday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Friday.

There were a total of 2,984 test results received in the past 24 hours with a positivity rate of 3.3%. Over the holiday weekend, the state surpassed the goal of 60,000 tests, or more than 2% of the state population, for the month. In the last 24 hours, there were 151 positive cases, with one being from a correctional facility. The counties with higher numbers from the recent report include Washington (29), Sevier (17), Benton (16) and St. Francis (13).

There has been an increase in cases associated with poultry employees. A total of 301 cases come from that industry. The counties with the most poultry cases include Benton (69), Yell (54), Washington (44), as well as Sevier and Polk.

Of the overall cases, Dr. Nate Smith shared that 50.7% are white, 37.1% are African American and 10.2% are Hispanic. In the past 24 hours, though, the Hispanic rate was at 42% of the 150 community cases. For age ranges, Smith shared that 39.3% are from the 25-44 age range and only 14.3% are from the 65-and-greater age range. Of the deaths, though, 74% are from the 65-and-greater age range.

As the data of hospitalizations and new and active cases indicate the state is in its second peak following the rise a month ago. A predictive model provided by the UAMS School of Public Health on May 21 estimates a total of around 8,500 total cases on by June 21, but the governor challenged Arkansans that we can work to keep the actual numbers below that estimate as has happened with previous projections.

“The vast majority of Arkansans are really paying attention to follow the guidelines and are making sure they do not contribute to spread of this virus,” he said. But, in referring to the holiday weekend, “there were more than a few that put their own comfort and convenience above the health of others, and that is not helpful. Graphs show we are at a critical point,” he said, in terms of the graphs showing us in our second peak and the fact that Phase 2 will not be a possibility as long as we are trending upward.

Smith echoed the governor’s concerns and said that moving forward, the response to the virus will depend more on not only public health interventions (testing and contact tracing), but also the individual decisions and behavior, like wearing masks in public, maintaining distance of six feet and not gathering in large groups. When someone asked Smith why we are worried about a disease where maybe up to 99% of people recover, and he said that leaves 1% who do not. An example is a recent death of a woman who was infected at a Mother’s Day gathering, “and that’s tragic,” he said. “We need to think about what we are doing, and how it may impact the people we care about.” If 1% of the population in Arkansas died, that would be 30,000 deaths. “That’s not acceptable; we need to take action,” he said.

The governor gave an update on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. They worked through the weekend and $16.8 million has been sent to more than 15,000 claimants as of this morning. Around 10,000 of those who are eligible have not filed weekly claims at pua.arkansas.gov.

The governor also announced that Smith has accepted a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has stayed on to help Arkansas through this health crisis. His last day as the Secretary of Health will be August 28, after which Dr. Jose Romero will serve as Interim Secretary of Health. Romero is the ADH Chief Medical Officer and infectious disease specialist at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Locally, along with the nine testing sites in the county, Healthy Connections Community Health Network is offering popup testing, with two days dedicated to locations in Garland County:

  • Thursday, May 28 - 3604 Central Avenue, Hot Springs (Healthy Connections clinic parking lot).
  • Friday, May 29 - 121 Cordoba Center Drive, Hot Springs Village (Century 21 parking lot).

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(05/22/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 5,612  The following stats were shared Friday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 5,612 total confirmed cases, up 154 from 5,458 on Thursday.
  • 1,470 active cases, up 37 from Thursday.
  • 4,029 recoveries, up 114 from Thursday.
  • 113 deaths, up three from Thursday.
  • 81 cases requiring hospitalization, down five from Thursday.
  • 14 cases on a ventilator, no change from Thursday.
  • 350 cases involving nursing home residents, up 20 from Thursday.
  • 132 cases in Garland County, up one from Thursday.
  • 123 recoveries in Garland County, up two from Thursday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

Of the 154 new cases, 135 are from the community and 19 are from correctional facilities. There were a total of 2,909 tests processed, and they reported a positivity rate of 4.4%. Of the community cases, 32 are from Washington County, and more than half of those came from three households as determined by Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) contact tracing. Eight cases in Greene county came from the same street. Hutchinson said these cases show us the quickness of the spread of COVID-19 in a household and community, and remind us we have to continue to be careful and practice our social distancing. Contact tracing efforts have been successful for 61%, or 137 individuals, of the 224 community cases from Wednesday. Of the ones contacted, 24% are known to have been in contact with previous COVID-19 cases and a total of 37 are connected with four employment sites. Only two had reported dining in at a restaurant.

Dr. Nate Smith shared that the directive for elective surgeries will again be updated, effective on Monday, May 25, in which all restrictions from ASA ratings will be lifted. The length of hospital stay restriction will also be lifted. Pre-procedure COVID-19 testing can be done within 72 hours, although 48 hours will still be preferred. No pre-procedure test will be required if the procedure is to be performed outside of a hospital setting with no co-mingling of hospital patients, and as long as there is no penetration of the body cavity or joint space in the planned procedure. The full directive will be posted on the ADH website at healthy.arkansas.gov.

Hutchinson shared that the Arkansas unemployment rate for April was 10.2%, which came in 4.5% less than the national unemployment rate of 14.7%. He hopes for May’s unemployment numbers to show an improvement in the state as businesses began reopening this month. There have been a total of 8,198 Ready for Business grants approved, and money will be sent out today through this weekend. There have been 7,105 claims paid, as of noon today, through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Funds will be distributed to another 3,000 claimants tonight. He encouraged those who have a claim pending and have received and email about the claim to go online at pua.arkansas.gov to finalize their weekly claim.

Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, shared some updates about the outdoors leading up to the Memorial Day weekend. The following state park trails, which were closed for the pandemic or due to storm debris, have been reopened: Cedar Falls Overlook Trail at Petit Jean State Park, Delta Heritage Trail and all trails at Cane Creek State Park near Star City. She reminded visitors that uniformed state parks staff will be monitoring and enforcing safe physical distancing. The U.S. Forest Service has reopened Whitaker Point Trail and the Glory Hole Falls Trail in the Ozark National Forest. Buffalo National River reopened, as well as Lost Valley Trail and Wolf Pen Gap.

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(05/21/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases increase 226 community cases to new total of 5,458  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 5,458 total confirmed cases, up 455 from 5,003 on Wednesday.
  • 1,433 active cases, down 389 from Wednesday.
  • 3,915 recoveries, up 63 from Wednesday.
  • 110 deaths, up three from Wednesday.
  • 86 cases requiring hospitalization, up seven from Wednesday.
  • 14 cases on a ventilator, down two from Wednesday.
  • 330 cases involving nursing home residents, up two from Wednesday.
  • 131 cases in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 121 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.

The increase of 455 includes 226 from the community and 229 from correctional facilities. There were a total of 2,616 test results received in the past 24 hours, and they reported the positivity rate was at 4.4%. Counties with the higher numbers of new cases include Yell (33), Benton (27), Washington (26) and Union (19). Dr. Nate Smith and Hutchinson both expressed concern at the increase in cases and hospitalizations, but Smith said that the uptick is partially attributed to the increase in testing numbers and availability of testing sites, which includes 79 local health units across the state. Targeted testing is already scheduled for the counties with recent increases in cases.

Announcements were given on team sports and on overnight summer camps. Youth team sports can resume with restrictions on June 1. Practice and competition will be allowed for limited-contact team sports, such as baseball, softball, track, gymnastics and swimming. The full directive will be posted on the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) website by the end of the day, and it will include the following: physical distancing, when possible; use of personal equipment and disinfecting of any shared equipment; participation discouraged for high-risk groups; screening of athletes, coaches and staff for symptoms; face coverings for everyone 10 and older, athletes can remove during activity and coaches/staff should wear at all times; avoiding huddles, high fives and any other non-sport related contact; directive for gyms applies to training facilities; and directives for venues, dining applies to athletic event facilities. Overnight summer camps can reopen on May 31, and camp counselors will be allowed to check-in a week prior to that date. Smith referred interested individuals to refer to the full directives to be posted online. He said these are some of the most complex directives “because we know COVID-19 is being spread in most of our communities and we want to make these activities as safe for our children as possible.”

The website for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – pua.arkansas.gov – is secure and returned online on May 20. Hutchinson said that as of noon today, more than 15,000 claimants have been emailed that they can go on the site and file their weekly claims. A total of 5,854 claimants have entered their weekly claim, and almost 4,000 have payments were sent out last night.

Hutchinson shared that the Crater of Diamonds State Park, which is important to the economy of Southwest Arkansas, will reopen with restrictions on May 22. The park will be limited to 500 visitors per day, and tickets can be purchased online at ArkansasStateParks.com.  

ADH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jose Romero spoke about the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children, which has affected a total of around 200 youth so far in the U.S. and Europe. There have been no cases reported in Arkansas. It is a severe inflammatory disease that follows a COVID-19 infection, but there is a treatment and death is rare.

Hutchinson encouraged Arkansans to abide by the mitigation directives, and particularly referenced the wearing of face masks for those dining in restaurants. Smith asked individuals to consider blood donations, which are down across the country.

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(05/20/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 5,003  The daily COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday was hosted by Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) in Little Rock as Gov. Asa Hutchinson was at a meeting in the White House. The following stats were shared at the press conference and on the ADH website:

  • 5,003 total confirmed cases, up 80 from 4,923 on Tuesday.
  • 1,044 active cases, down 38 from Tuesday.
  • 3,852 recoveries, up 113 from Tuesday.
  • 107 deaths, up five from Tuesday.
  • 79 cases requiring hospitalization, up one from Tuesday.
  • 16 cases on a ventilator, up two from Tuesday.
  • 325 cases involving nursing home residents, no change from Tuesday.
  • 130 cases in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.
  • 120 recoveries in Garland County, up three from Tuesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.

The announcement regarding team sports and summer camps has been delayed until the Thursday press conference due to Hutchinson’s trip to Washington.

Of the 80 new cases, 79 are community cases as only one additional case was reported from correctional facilities. This was the second day in a row that total tests reached record levels as the total number of results received in the past 24 hours was 4,396. The positive rate of infection was 1.9%.

Smith announced an upgrade to the data dashboard, which features more information and COVID-19 statistics for the state. It is located on the ADH website – healthy.arkansas.gov.  

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(05/20/20)  Four additional COVID-19 testing locations in Garland County  There are now nine COVID-19 testing locations in Garland County with the addition of four new sites courtesy of the Garland County Health Department, Healthy Connections Community Health Network and Walmart.

At the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force’s virtual meeting on May 18, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby said that the county continues to fare well with testing with a rate of 369 people being tested per 10,000. There was an increase of 10 positive cases in the county this past week, but Shelby said with the total of 705 tests results processed, there was still a low positivity rate of 1.4%. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has provided access to local health department officials with information on local active COVID-19 cases and probable contacts. Shelby said there are currently 14 on the list for Garland County, 11 of which are active cases. The individuals range in age from 7 to 85.

The additional four testing locations will be helpful as businesses reopen and visitors return to Hot Springs. The column at right is the full listing of locations. 

The Hot Springs/Garland County Call Center is still available at 501-760-4307 to answer questions relating to the novel coronavirus and the local response. Although call levels have been low, a recent trend of questions relates to availability of antibody testing in the area. Shelby referenced Dr. Nate Smith, ADH director and state health officer, in that antibody testing for the public is not currently recommended. According to information on the ADH website, healthy.arkansas.gov, antibody tests detect the body’s immune response to the virus the causes COVID-19, but the test does not turn positive until after the individual is already getting well. The test has limitations in that it may not show a person has COVID-19 when, in fact, they do. Some of the antibody tests can also cross react with viruses that cause the common cold, showing one has COVID-19 when they do not. There is also no evidence that a positive antibody test means the individual will be immune from COVID-19 in the future. 

What continues to be critical are the use of face masks in public, social distancing, hand washing and the following of guidelines and directives relating to businesses, restaurants and public gatherings.

Hot Springs Police Department Captain Billy Hrvatin said that the police department responds to calls about restaurants, bars and businesses not abiding by the state’s directives. Officers followed up on a complaint about a restaurant over the weekend, but found it to be abiding by all the proper directives. He said that according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control, the official distinction between a bar and restaurant is if the establishment has a full working kitchen. As long as there is a full kitchen and the business is abiding by the May 11 directive on restaurants resuming dine-in operations, it is allowed to serve patrons. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at his May 18 press conference that bars located inside restaurants can re-open on May 19, and free-standing bars can re-open a week later on May 26. More information will be in the official directive on the ADH website.

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) reported that they will be receiving an additional allocation of almost $46,000 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to aid agencies with shelter and utility assistance, courtesy of the CARES Act. The UWO continues to accept applications from individuals and families to request assistance as they have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19. The application is available 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.  [Read more...]

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(05/19/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,923  The following stats were shared Tuesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,923 total confirmed cases, up 110 from 4,813 on Monday.
  • 1,082 active cases, up 14 from Monday.
  • 3,739 recoveries, up 94 from Monday.
  • 102 deaths, up two from Monday.
  • 78 cases requiring hospitalization, up 1 from Monday.
  • 14 cases on a ventilator, up two from Monday.
  • 325 cases involving nursing home residents; up one from Monday.
  • 130 cases in Garland County, up 1 from Monday.
  • 117 recoveries in Garland County, no change from Monday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Monday.

Of the 110 new cases reported, four come from correctional institutions and 106 are from the community, making it the second-highest day to date for community cases. However, a record number of test results – 3,014 – were processed in the last 24 hours, and the positivity rate was 1.5%. There were three counties with more than 10 new cases: Pulaski (19), Sevier (14) and St. Francis (13).

Hutchinson shared that in June, the plan is to test all residents and employees at long-term care facilities in Arkansas, which will be between 40,000-50,000 tests. He thanked nursing home and long-term care workers and residents, “who have been through a lot of challenges and have really acted heroically,” he said. Enhanced payment funds for workers in these facilities, starting weekly on April 23, will total $21.8 million through the payment to be dispersed on May 22.

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(05/18/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,813; announcements given about the lifting of restrictions on bars  The following stats were shared Monday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Forrest City and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,813 total confirmed cases, up 350 from 4,463 on Friday.
  • 1,068 active cases, up 93 from Friday.
  • 3,645 recoveries, up 255 from Friday.
  • 100 deaths, up two from Friday.
  • 77 cases requiring hospitalization, up 12 from Friday.
  • 12 cases on a ventilator, up three from Friday.
  • 129 cases in Garland County, up 11 from Friday.
  • 117 recoveries in Garland County, up five from Friday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Friday.

The governor announced that bars located in restaurant facilities can re-open on May 19. Free-standing bars will open a week later, on May 26. The Arkansas Department of Health will issue additional information and guidelines related to these directives.

Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith applauded the efforts in Forest City that led to a total of 550 individuals getting tested for COVID-19 on Saturday, which the governor described as the most extensive testing done in any community since this pandemic began. A total of 290 of the test results have been processed, and 24 of those are positive.

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(05/15/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,463 The following stats were shared Friday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,463 total confirmed cases, up 97 from 4,366 on Friday.
  • 975 active cases, up 47 from Thursday.
  • 3,390 recoveries, up 50 from Thursday.
  • 98 deaths, no change from Thursday.
  • 65 cases requiring hospitalization, down four from Thursday.
  • 9 cases on a ventilator, down one from Thursday.
  • 118 cases in Garland County, down three from Thursday.
  • 112 recoveries in Garland County, down three from Thursday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

Of the 97 new cases, 18 were from correctional facilities and 79 were from the community. Of the 975 active cases, 322 were from correctional facilities, 102 were from nursing homes and 551 were from the community. There were a total of 2,669 test reports received since yesterday, and there was a 2.5% positivity rate.

As of Thursday, testing numbers are well on the way to reach the 60,000 goal for the month of May.

Testing for elective surgeries is still recommended after 48 hours of the procedure. If not feasible, can still be tested after 72 hours of the procedure.

The Governor announced a new visual map, located at near the bottom of ar.gov/covid, to help individuals locate nearby testing locations. Beginning Monday, all local health units (almost 70 units) will be open and offer COVID-19 testing for individuals with or without symptoms.

Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (ADPHT) Stacy Hurst announced today, May 15, State Park immediate re-openings with precautions for lodges and cabins and marinas.

At 5 p.m. today, the East and West Summit trails at Pinnacle Mountain, as well as, the Highway 300 Day Use Area, the Base, the Kingfisher and a portion of the Ouachita trails will also be opened. There will be limited parking within the designated State Parks parking areas with unformed officers enforcing a safe, physical distances for guests.

Tuesday, May 19, the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village will be opened.

Subject to legislative approval, Arkansas was awarded almost $500,000 funds through the National Endowment for the Arts, which will be sub-granted by the Arkansas Art Council to 501(c) 3 nonprofit organizations. For more information on the grant applications, visit https://www.arkansasarts.org/

(05/14/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,366  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,366 total confirmed cases, up 130 from 4,236 on Wednesday.
  • 928 active cases, up 66 from Wednesday.
  • 3,340 recoveries, up 63 from Wednesday.
  • 98 deaths, up one from Wednesday.
  • 69 cases requiring hospitalization, up five from Wednesday.
  • 10 cases on a ventilator, down three from Wednesday.
  • 316 nursing home residents infected, no change from Wednesday.
  • 121 cases in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 115 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Wednesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.

Of the 130 new cases, 17 were from correctional facilities and 113 were from the community, making it the largest single-day increase in community transmissions to date. There were a total of 1,991 test reports received since yesterday, and there was a 2.6% positivity rate.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston addressed some of the questions they continue to hear. The trust fund for unemployment insurance is in good standing at $778 million, which they will continue to monitor closely as it relates to the number of incoming claims and how long this situation goes with the number of people on unemployment. Up to this point, they have paid out a total of $109 million from the state trust fund. From the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – the additional $600 provided in the CARES Act – they have provided payments of $248 million throughout the state. From the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, again from the CARES Act to provide the additional 13 weeks of payments, they have sent out almost $500,000. There have been approximately 30,000 applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance since the system opened last week. They hope to have payments available during the week of May 18.

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(5/13/20)  COVID-19 testing site opening at Walmart in Hot Springs   A new COVID-19 drive-thru testing site is opening Friday, May 15, in the Walmart parking lot located at 1601 Albert Pike Road, with tests to be offered at no cost to the individual.

The site is supported by Walmart, eTrueNorth and state and local officials to test anyone who meets guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local authorities on who should be tested, including those with symptoms of COVID-19 or first responders, healthcare providers and others and in high risk groups without symptoms.

The site will use a self-administered nasal swab observed by a trained medical professional to ensure the sample is taken correctly. Those interested in being tested need to visit www.DoINeedaCOVID19test.com to determine eligibility for testing and to make an appointment. If individuals have difficulty scheduling an appointment online, they can call 800-635-8611. Those getting tested are required to wear a mask and stay in their cars at all times. Appointments will be scheduled between 7-9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, weather permitting. A schedule voucher from the completed online form will need to be shown at the drive-thru site.  For the safety of those on-site, the test site is not available to those who walk up.

The site will be staffed by Walmart healthcare professionals, and eTrueNorth will handle processing test samples and communicating results to those tested and the Arkansas Department of Health. While individuals who are tested are awaiting results, please follow CDC guidelines and take steps to help prevent the virus from spreading to people in your home and community.  [Read more...]

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(05/13/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,236  The following stats were shared Wednesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,236 total confirmed cases, up 72 from 4,164 on Tuesday.
  • 862 active cases, up 13 from Tuesday.
  • 3,277 recoveries, up 57 from Tuesday.
  • 97 deaths, up two from Tuesday.
  • 64 cases requiring hospitalization, up five from Tuesday.
  • 13 cases on a ventilator, up one from Tuesday.
  • 316 nursing home residents infected, up 17 from Tuesday.
  • 120 cases in Garland County, up one from Tuesday.
  • 114 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Tuesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Tuesday.

Dr. Nate Smith shared some additional demographic information. African Americans account for 38.8% of the total cases and 38.9% of the total COVID-19 deaths in the state. Smith said that this means that African Americans are overrepresented in the total number of cases, but that they are not more likely to die if they get the infection. The age group with the highest number of cases is the 25-44 age range at 38.7% of the total cases. The 65 and greater age group accounts for 15.9% of cases, but they represent 71.6% of the deaths, which means they are the age group with the highest risk of a bad outcome.

Hutchinson shared that the state has recorded 23,949 test results this month through May 12 toward the goal of 60,000 during the month. In the past 24 hours, there was a total of 2,278 test results received with a positivity rate of 2.2%.

LaShannon Spencer, chief executive officer of Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA), reported that their health centers across the state have committed more than 2,000 collections a week in May toward the state’s goal of 60,000. She said there are multiple testing sites and types of sites (drive-thru and tents) across the state, and that if an individual does not have insurance, they will not be charged. For more information about testing sites, visit their website at http://www.chc-ar.org/  or call 1-833-508-0774. She added that primary care needs should still be attended to, and all the necessary precautions are being taken to protect individuals and staff from spread of the virus.

Bo Ryall, president and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association, echoed Spencer in saying that hospitals are open and are available to assist with residents’ healthcare needs. “If you have been delaying medical care, we would encourage you to follow up with your physician and hospital to schedule an appointment,” he said. Local hospitals are available for COVID-19 testing, or can direct residents to testing locations in their area. He also recognized healthcare workers across the state as this is National Hospital Week.  

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(05/12/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,164  The following stats were shared Tuesday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,164 total confirmed cases, up 121 from 4,043 on Monday.
  • 849 active cases, up 46 from Monday.
  • 3,220 recoveries, up 71 from Monday.
  • 95 deaths, up one from Monday.
  • 59 cases requiring hospitalization, down two from Monday.
  • 12 cases on a ventilator, up one from Monday.
  • 299 nursing home residents infected, up 10 from Monday.
  • 119 cases in Garland County, no change from Monday.
  • 113 recoveries in Garland County, no change from Monday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Monday.

Of the new 121 cases, 100 are from the community and 21 are from correctional facilities. Of the 100 community cases, 27 are from St. Francis County, where the Federal Correctional Institute is located. There was a total of 1,753 test results received since Monday, and Dr. Nate Smith continued to encourage anyone experiencing symptoms or with known contact to the virus to get tested, particularly since the state has ample supplies and testing locations. He said he is concerned about the 100 community cases that have arisen since yesterday, but that he is more concerned about the possible cases we do not know about. Hutchinson and Smith both shared that the goal, or primary focus, is to identify spikes in new cases and, through testing and contact tracing, work to ensure spikes do not develop into hot spots.

Hutchinson provided two future dates on which announcements will be made regarding possible lifting of restrictions. On May 18, the governor will make an announcement about the future reopening of bars. On May 20, he will provide an outlook for summer camps and team sports.

The state received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 50 doses of Remdesivir, which the Arkansas Department of Health will distribute to healthcare providers who are treating more severe COVID-19 patients. Smith said it is not a miracle drug, but it has shown to help some patients recover.

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(05/12/20)  ’Hyper vigilance’ needed next few weeks to maintain positive trend (COVID-19 Task Force)  With only five active COVID-19 cases and the rate of positive test results this past week falling to just .2%, the early and robust testing in Garland County seem to be paying off according to Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby.

“It is really pretty amazing to look at the numbers in Garland County for May 3 through May 10,” said Shelby. “There was still robust testing numbers, with a total of 623 tests, and just one positive.”

Of the 119 total confirmed cases in the county, 113 have recovered and one individual passed away from the virus, meaning there are only five active cases.

But Shelby said we “need to keep doing what we have been doing and be hyper-vigilant over the next couple of weeks and moving forward as businesses, restaurants and the casino begin reopening, particularly as more visitors from outside the county will be traveling into our area.”

He also noted that he has fielded questions about the statewide directives from the Governor’s Office and the Arkansas Department of Health (AHD). Since the state, as with all others in the U.S., is under a public health emergency, directives from the Governor and ADH are laws and can be enforced. It is important to remember that the difference between guidance and a directive is that guidance means “should do,” while directive means “must do,” explained Fire Chief Ed Davis.

Hot Springs Police Department Captain Billy Hrvatin confirmed that the police station has received calls about establishments not following state directives. The department responds by speaking with the possible offender, and citations can be given as needed. A few area restaurants were contacted over the weekend for opening ahead of directed May 11 Phase One initiation date.

The directives being put into place by the Governor’s office in coordination with ADH can be found on the ADH website.

The area COVID-19 Call Center (501-760-4307) reported a caller asking about summer camps, which were cancelled by a directive on April 17, 2020. This directive will be re-evaluated on May 31, but it states that COVID-19 community spread likely to continue for some time and that “a return to normal activities may not occur until late summer or beyond.”

Also, Shelby mentioned the directives regarding recreational pools, common areas and fitness centers, and said they also pertain to apartment complexes and property owner associations.

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) is continuing to accept applications from individuals and families who are requesting assistance if they have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19. The application is available at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application, and applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. Applications will be reviewed weekly, and payment of approved funds will go directly to pay the holder of the bill(s) or expense(s).

[Read more...]

(05/11/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 4,043 over weekend  The following stats were shared Monday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in El Dorado and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 4,043 total confirmed cases, up 296 from 3,747 on Friday.
  • 803 active cases, up 112 from Friday.
  • 3,149 recoveries, up 181 from Friday.
  • 94 deaths, up six from Friday.
  • 61 cases requiring hospitalization, down three from Friday.
  • 11 cases on a ventilator, down three from Friday.
  • 289 nursing home residents infected, up 19 from Friday.
  • 119 cases in Garland County, up one from Friday.
  • 113 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Friday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Friday.

Hutchinson, in talking about the economic crisis that followed the health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, said that the state is in good position to rebound because Arkansas did not shut down completely, as well as the underlying fact that the Arkansas economy is very diverse. Arkansas also has $780 million in reserve funds for unemployment compensation, which puts the state in good position to meet the needs of those struggling and have been unemployed.

Dr. Nate Smith said that two important elements of the economic rebound are regaining trust in our hospitals and medical clinics and the increase of testing. Getting our hospitals and clinics back in operation is critical, and Smith encouraged Arkansans to trust the extensive measures being taken by these facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain appointments and seek treatment for medical issues. Broad testing allows for the rapid detection and response of outbreaks, and it takes all of us, including individuals seeking out a test if there are symptoms or exposure involved.

Mike Preston said that more than 100,000 unemployment insurance checks will be issued across the state this week. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation system is up and running, and it allows people out of work prior to the pandemic an extra 13 weeks of eligibility thanks to the CARES Act. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system also went live last week, and 23,000 claims have been filed thus far. Preston said he hopes checks will be issued in the next couple of weeks. Visit ARUnemployment.com to process the application.

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(05/08/20)  City of Hot Springs will allow restaurants to offer extended outdoor dining  In an effort to support the overall resurgence of Arkansas’ number one tourist designation – Hot Springs – and to keep residents and visitors safe, the City has worked to allow the May 11 Phase One reopening of restaurants in the city to include outdoor dining. All participating restaurants must strictly adhere to the Secretary of Health and Governor’s guidelines on food service operations.

The directive, which comes from City Manager Bill Burrough, hopes to provide restaurants the ability to increase their customer capacity from the 33% indoor requirement with the use of outdoor areas, which may include underutilized parking lots. This directive comes about after a coordinated effort between the City, Visit Hot Springs, the Governor’s Office and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.  Restaurants that have a permit to serve alcohol will be allowed to do so in their designated outdoor dining areas.

The directive is effective May 11 through August 1, or at the time the Governor allows restaurants to function at 100% capacity. It allows temporary accessory structures, such as umbrellas and canopies, without a permit during the pandemic for currently established and licensed restaurants with the City of Hot Springs, so long as all local, state and federal regulations and guidelines are followed. Canopies and umbrellas shall be wide open on all sides, and not within or against a fence or other obstruction. Tables and chairs may also be placed in striped parking places, as long as driving lanes are kept clear for customer and first-responder access. All outdoor lighting should be contained on-site, and noise limits should be observed by refraining from amplified sound. Temporary signs will also be allowed on the restaurant’s private property.

Restaurants using tents with one or more sides, or canopies and umbrellas within or against a fence or other obstruction, will require a permit. No fee will be charged during the pandemic. Tent structures must be constructed of a fire-retardant material. Additional information on these guidelines will be posted on the City’s website: www.cityhs.net

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(05/08/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,747; pools and water parks can open May 22  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 3,747 total confirmed cases, up 82 from 3,665 on Thursday.
  • 691 active cases, down 19 from Thursday.
  • 2,968 recoveries, up 101 from Thursday.
  • 88 deaths, no change from Thursday.
  • 64 cases requiring hospitalization, down six from Thursday.
  • 14 cases on a ventilator, no change from Thursday.
  • 270 nursing home residents infected, up four from Thursday.
  • 118 cases in Garland County, up one from Thursday.
  • 112 recoveries in Garland County, up one from Thursday.
  • 1 death in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

Dr. Nate Smith said that a total of 2,355 test results were received since yesterday, making the rate of infection 2.1%. The state’s overall rate of infection among those tested is 5.8%.

Hutchinson announced that effective May 22, water parks, recreational pools, splash pads and swim beaches can reopen at 50% capacity and with adherence to the following guidelines: no entry for those with fever, symptoms or contact with positive patient; six-foot physical distancing, and use of fewer entrances, if needed, to control overcrowding; markings to note distancing at slides, diving boards and anywhere there may be a line; frequent disinfection of high-touch areas; tables and chairs moved six-feet apart, but families can sit together; and pool chemistry maintained by checking pH twice-daily. Lifeguard training can begin immediately.

Smith announced that on May 11 hospitals and medical clinics will be able to move to the next phase of elective surgeries to allow for overnight stays less than 48 hours. More complex procedures, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists category rankings, will also be allowed.

Hutchinson also shared that the General Assembly approved today an increase to $147 million for the available funds for the Arkansas Ready for Business Grant Program, as well as the COVID-19 payments to direct- and indirect-care providers and employees.

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(05/07/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,665; casinos can reopen on May 18 at 33%  The following stats were shared Thursday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Texarkana and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 3,665 total confirmed cases, up 97 from 3,568 on Wednesday.
  • 710 active cases, down 664 from Wednesday due to re-analysis and reclassification.
  • 2,867 recoveries, up 758 from Wednesday.
  • 88 deaths, up three from Wednesday.
  • 70 cases requiring hospitalization, up one from Wednesday.
  • 14 cases on a ventilator, no change from Wednesday.
  • 266 nursing home residents infected, up two from Wednesday.
  • 117 cases in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.
  • 111 recoveries in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.
  • 1 death in Garland County.

Hutchinson announced that the state’s three gaming casino will be able to open on May 18 at 33% capacity and with stringent social distancing requirements in place. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has been working closely with the industry, and the ADH will release in the next day the full list of guidelines for this phase of the casino reopening.

Yesterday was one of the three highest testing capacity days the state has had so far with a total of 2,174 test results received. To meet the goal of 60,000 in the month of May, which equates to around 2% of the state’s population, Dr. Nate Smith said he hopes the daily average moving forward will be around 2,000.

Smith shared that the state received positive feedback from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield in terms of maintaining low case numbers. “He was very pleased especially since not only have our numbers remained low and heading in the right direction, but, through this, we never did have to shut [the economy] down,” said Smith.   

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(05/06/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,568  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,568 total confirmed cases (up 72 from 3,496 on May 5)
  • 1,374 active cases
  • 2,109 recovered (up 59)
  • 117 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page); 107 recovered
  • 69 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down 20)
  • 85 deaths (up two)
  • 14 patients currently on a ventilator (down two)
  • 264 nursing home COVID-19 cases (up three); 149 staff (up one)

Of the 72 new cases, 20 were from the Federal Correctional Institute in Forest City.

Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith shared information about growth rate in cases from May 5-6, with both data on age groups and geographic regions in the state. The two age groups with the highest rate of increase are the 18-25 and 65-plus. Overall, the highest percentage of cases in Arkansas are from the 25-44 age group. “The majority of people who have been infected in Arkansas are really in those younger age groups, and so it’s very important that everybody take those precautions – social distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask out in public – and these are things that will help prevent the spread,” said Smith.

Geographically, the most cases recently have come from the northeast, Jonesboro and West Memphis, and southwest, Texarkana. There have also been more cases in the southeast, Forest City.

Smith encouraged anyone with symptoms to get tested, and Hutchinson explained that the state has received a commitment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 90,000 test kits and swabs to be delivered to Arkansas for the month of May. Hutchinson said they have set a goal of 60,000 completed tests for May.

The governor signed an executive order on May 5 waiving annual well and production assessment fees to assist the oil and gas industry in South Arkansas, where it’s not been cost effective for them to continue to produce out of their wells with prices being so low.

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(05/06/20)  HS/GC COVID-19 Task Force: UAMS to bring free COVID-19 testing unit on May 11  As COVID-19 restrictions in Arkansas become lifted, the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force is working to extend the area’s already high testing capacity.

At the task force’s virtual meeting on May 4, it was announced that UAMS is scheduled to bring their free COVID-19 community drive-thru evaluation clinic to downtown Hot Springs at the Farmers & Artisans Market, 121 Orange Street, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

The clinic will be conducted by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) along with the City of Hot Springs and the Garland County Office of Emergency Services. The primary focus for this screening/testing event is for symptomatic individuals who are experiencing homelessness, as well as underserved minority groups and those living near the downtown area who may not have access to the five evaluation/testing sites in Garland County. However, the event is open to anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. 

Those coming for evaluation and possible COVID-19 testing can use the drive-through option, or can walk up to the site. Vehicles will be greeted at the south driveway entrance to the Farmers & Artisans Market located off Broadway Avenue behind Crystal Ridge Distillery.

You do not have to be a UAMS patient to be seen. UAMS physicians will evaluate you to see if you need to be tested. If you are not tested, you will be given instructions on how to take care of yourself and your family at home. If you are tested, results take several days to come back and you will receive a phone call about your test results.

If you feel well and do not have any symptoms, continue to stay home, wash your hands regularly, and practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people when in public places. An online screening tool is available at uamshealth.com/healthnow. Phone screening is available through the UAMS Health hotline at 800-632-4502.

For those experiencing homelessness, following their COVID-19 screening there will be a mobile shower unit provided by the Garland County Office of Emergency Management. There will also be food and fresh clothes available. This event is being coordinated by Sally Carder, outreach coordinator with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, along with the City of Hot Springs and the Garland County Office of Emergency Management.

For anyone homeless whose evaluation warrants a test, a local hotel has offered a wing of their facility to be used as quarantine for the remainder of the individual’s symptoms or bout with the virus.

Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby provided an update on testing countywide. Since the previous week’s meeting, there have been 493 tests completed with a total of seven positive results. That equates to a positive test rate of 1.4%.

Shelby referred to the state’s phased reopening and guidelines being put into place by the Governor’s office in coordination with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), which can be found by clicking on the COVID-19 banner on the ADH website – healthy.arkansas.gov. As phone calls to the area COVID-19 Call Center (501-760-4307) are expected to increase, staff are familiarizing themselves with the state’s guidelines.

Fire Chief Ed Davis said that any business owner needing guidance on their facility’s occupancy numbers can contact their local fire department.

CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center both reported they have started scheduling a small volume of elective surgical procedures. Both hospitals are keeping their COVID-19 visitation policies in place for the time being, in which no visitors are allowed, and both have implemented mandatory wearing of face masks for employees and patients. 

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) has begun receiving applications from individuals and families to request assistance as they have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19. The application is available at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application, and applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. Applications will be reviewed weekly, and payment of approved funds will go directly to pay the holder of the bill(s) or expense(s).

Also beginning this week for those with approved applications will be distribution of food boxes in coordination with Project HOPE Food Bank and Sheep Dog Impact Assistance of Central Arkansas.

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.

[Read more...]

(05/05/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,496; residential overnight travelers allowed from all states without hot-spots  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,496 total confirmed cases (up 38 from 3,458 on May 4)
  • 1,364 active cases
  • 2,050 recovered (up 34)
  • 117 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page); 106 recovered
  • 89 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down two)
  • 83 deaths (up two)
  • 16 patients currently on a ventilator (no change)
  • 261 nursing home COVID-19 cases (up 16); 148 staff (up one)

The restriction of overnight recreational travelers has been lifted for those coming from states without hot-spots, which may be adjusted by Dr. Nate Smith as the pandemic progresses. Current hot-spots include New York, New Orleans, New Jersey and Connecticut. Anyone coming from a hot-spot would be expected to self-quarantine for 14 days if they come into the state. According to Hutchinson, the objective of lifting this restriction is to allow hotels and lodges to extend occupancy to those who may come to Arkansas from our neighboring states, many of which have low numbers or are not accelerating in cases.

Hutchinson also extended the state’s emergency declaration, which would have expired on May 21, for an additional 45 days.

The governor shared that the monthly revenue report that indicated the state revenue is down 28.3% from the same time last year. He is pleased, however, that these revenues beat the projections that were lowered when the pandemic made it clear revenues would drop dramatically. “While our economy has taken a hit, it has not taken the same nosedive that we have seen in some other states,” he said.

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(05/04/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,458 over weekend; guidance provided for places of worship and directives for outdoor/indoor venues  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,458 total confirmed cases (up 137 from 3,321 on Friday, May 1)
  • 1,362 active cases
  • 2,016 recovered
  • 118 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page); 106 recovered
  • 91 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down four)
  • 81 deaths (up 17)
  • 16 patients currently on a ventilator (down seven)
  • 245 nursing home COVID-19 cases (up 16); 147 staff (up five)

The governor’s announcements today regarding venues provided guidance for places of worship and a directive for large outdoor venues, both effective immediately, as well as a directive for large indoor venues, effective May 18.

The guidance for places of worship, in contrast to a directive, includes the following recommendations: online platforms still strongly encouraged; signs advising no entry if recent fever, symptoms or contact with positive patient; 6-foot distance among guests, except family groups, and 12-foot distance from audience and worship leaders addressing congregation or performing singers (who may remove masks while presenting/performing); face coverings worn at all times inside by anyone over 10 years of age; hand sanitizing stations at entrances, and distancing monitored in lines for entry/exit; meet-and-greet times moved outside as possible, and refreshments outdoors only; no physical contact, and elimination of the use of items touched by multiple people, like collection plates and shared books; a refrain from people coming forward to common alter railing for Holy Communion, blessings, or other instances; no classes for youth or childcare; and sanitization of common areas.

The directive for large outdoor venues, also effective immediately, involves facilities such as arenas, sports venues, race tracks, stadiums, amusement centers and fairgrounds. The directive includes the following stipulations: 12-foot distance between performers and audience; 50 or fewer performers/players/contestants, and an audience of 50 or fewer people; 6-foot distancing in seating, except for family groups; lines marked/monitored for distancing; every other row should be unoccupied; face coverings worn at all times by anyone over 10 years of age; signs should advise no entry if any symptoms or contact with positive patient; hand sanitizer stations at all entrances/exits; refreshments allowed, but no self-service; facility, including seating, cleaned before/after each use.

The directive for large indoor venues is effective May 18, and includes the same stipulations as those listed for outdoor venues. Examples of indoor venues include auditoriums, lecture halls, movie theaters, museums, arenas, sports venues, race tracks, funeral homes and bowling alleys. This directive does not include casinos, but the governor and Dr. Nate Smith said that guidelines for Phase One of casinos reopening should be announced soon with a target effective date of May 18.

Hutchinson also announced the application process for the Arkansas Ready for Business Grant Program, allowing a total of $55 million to assist all industry sectors in the phased reopening, will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 5-6. The application will be available at www.ArkansasEDC.com/COVID19. Grants will allow for $1,000 per full-time employee with a $100,000 cap per company. More than 15% of the overall pool will be designated for women- and minority-owned businesses, and more than 75% will be for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Existing applications remain in consideration, and the application process requires only a driver’s license, signed W-9 and a certificate of good standing.

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(05/01/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,321  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,321 total confirmed cases (up 66 from 3,255 on April 30)
  • 1,888 active cases (up four)
  • 1,973 recovered (up 668 due to reclassification of data)
  • 116 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 95 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (no change)
  • 64 deaths (up three)
  • 23 patients currently on a ventilator (no change)
  • 229 nursing home COVID-19 cases (up seven); 142 staff (up seven)

Gov. Hutchinson announced that on May 6, Phase One of reopening for hair and barber salons, as well as body art and medical spas, that will allow services to resume with the following stipulations: 10 or fewer people in the facility, and larger facilities can have no more than 30% of stations in operation; no walk-in appointments, and clients should wait outside or in cars until their appointment is ready; time allotted between appointments for cleaning; client names and contact information recorded; face coverings required for staff and clients, as services permit; gloves should be worn, and hands should be washed before and after services; screening of staff and clients; postponement of services if any symptoms are present, even if they are attributed to allergies; and cosmetology and barber schools are not included in this phase. The full list of guidelines will be made available on the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) website, healthy.arkansas.gov.

Dr. Nate Smith shared that a COVID-19 Dental Advisory Group is being appointed to help prepare and give input on directives to allow restrictions to begin to be lifted on dental work on May 18.

Dr. Michelle Smith, director of Health Equity and HIV Elimination, provided information about the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundations recently launched COVID Relief Initiative that will provide many grants, up to $1,000, to organizations addressing hardships associated with COVID-19. There will also be a free seminar to help salons and barber shops help reduce the spread of COVID-19 transmission among employees and customers from 6-7:30 p.m. on May 5. More information will be available on the ADH website.

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(04/30/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,255; gyms to reopen on May 4  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,255 total confirmed cases (up 63 from 3,192 on April 29)
  • 1,888 active cases (up four)
  • 1,305 recovered (up 56)
  • 116 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 95 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up two)
  • 61 deaths (up two)
  • 23 patients currently on a ventilator (up five)

Gov. Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith shared that a total 2,520 test reports have been received since yesterday, making the last 24 hours the largest single day of tests in Arkansas. There was an overall 1.5% positivity rate from those tests.

The governor announced today that beginning May 4, gyms and fitness/athletic centers will be allowed to reopen with the following restrictions: screening for staff and patrons, and temperature checks for staff; face coverings for staff and patrons, except when actively exercising; no use of pools, spas, showers or saunas; sanitizing of equipment after each use; and a 12-foot distance while working out and during training sessions and classes. There is a directive prohibiting summer youth and teen sports, but the governor plans to make an announcement mid- to late-May about when those restrictions may be lifted.

The governor reminded Arkansans that even though restrictions are beginning to be lifted, this pandemic still needs to be taken very seriously. “It’s all up to us how we do on this, individually and collectively, as to whether we make progress and are able to open more up, or are not successful and have to retreat,” he said.

(04/29/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,192 with seven new deaths and no new correctional institution cases  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,192 total confirmed cases (up 81 from 3,111 on April 28)
  • 1,884 active cases (down 29)
  • 1,249 recovered (up 103)
  • 115 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 93 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down 11)
  • 59 deaths (up seven)
  • 18 patients currently on a ventilator (down two)
  • 340 healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 (up seven)
  • 219 cases in nursing homes (up 11); 128 nursing home staff (up 13)

There were no additional COVID-19 cases from correctional institutions since yesterday, so all 81 new cases were from the community.

Gov. Hutchinson had two announcements relating to the reopening of businesses. Phase One for opening of dine-in services at restaurants will take place on May 11, with the following stipulations: no more than 33% occupancy rate of the restaurants; face coverings, physical distancing and daily staff screenings required; no groups larger than 10; no self-service; bars and entertainment within restaurants prohibited; and senior hour, reservations and pre-ordering encouraged.

Secondly, the Arkansas Ready for Business Grant Program, which has a pool of $15 million in grants to assist companies through the restart phase and to build consumer confidence by offsetting expenses associated with ensuring the health and safety of employees and patrons. Such expenses include personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer stations, cleaning supplies and services and other one-time expenses to enable a business to reopen. All industry sectors are eligible, and grants will be $1,000 per full-time employee for up to a total of $100,000 per company. The application and more information should be available by the end of the day at www.ArkansasEDC.com.

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(04/28/20)  Garland County COVID-19 positive test result percentages dropping  Garland County continues to lead the state in per capita COVID-19 testing, but there is yet work to be done in planning how to safely re-initiate elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures in line with Arkansas Department of Health guidelines, according to representatives with CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center.

At the virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force on April 27, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby again praised the local medical community for continuing to provide tests to the public. For the week from April 19 – 26, Garland County had 297 tests reported. Of those, only four were positive, for a positive rate of 1.3%. Shelby noted the recent positive rate is much lower than the county’s overall positive rate of 6.1%, which comes from a total of 1,814 tests administered with 111 positive results.

To continue to mitigate the spread of the virus locally, Shelby noted the importance of following the recommendation from national and statewide authorities of wearing face masks in public, particularly in stores and in other situations where maintaining social distancing is a challenge.

For those who do not have a face mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers step-by-step guidelines on making clothe masks from a bandana or T-shirt. The CDC also published a short video demonstrating how to easily make a mask.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on April 22 that elective surgeries and medical procedures at the state’s hospitals and clinics can resume on April 27, with a few stipulations that include the patient must test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of the procedure. Area hospital representatives said that their leadership teams are taking appropriate steps to safely resume some elective surgeries and procedures that were previously rescheduled out of an abundance of caution amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The planning processes are underway in both area hospitals, and they are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of patients, coworkers and physicians. Some elective procedures will be scheduled very shortly.

The COVID-19 Call Center reported receiving multiple calls relating to pre-procedure testing needs, and callers were directed to available testing sites. Hospital representatives said that COVID-19 test scheduling for procedures would most likely be organized by the clinic or hospital scheduling the procedure, rather than it being left up to the patient. The Call Center is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, at 501-760-4307.

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) has launched an online application for individuals and families to request assistance if they have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19. The application is available online, and applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation.

Money for assistance is made possible through several grants for which the UWO was recently awarded, donations to the COVID-19 Relief Fund and $16,000 from United Way Worldwide. A $25,000 grant from the Blue & You Foundation will provide food boxes in partnership with the Project HOPE Food Bank. Sarah Fowler, UWO executive director, said they plan to use $5,000 a month for five months of food relief. Another grant of $10,000 from the Arvest Foundation will also assist with food, as well as medical and shelter needs. The COVID-19 Relief Fund has also received $2,600 from Truist Bank, $2,000 from Weyerhaeuser and nearly $1,000 from individual gifts. To donate, visit www.bit.ly/UWO-COVID, call 501-623-2505 or send a check by mail at 233 Hobson Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913.

Agencies reported that levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) are currently suitable, with one exception being swabs for COVID-19 testing. City Manager Bill Burrough and Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney said they are continuing support role efforts, which includes a daily pursuit of additional PPE along with Bo Robertson, Garland County emergency management director.[Read more...]

(04/28/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 3,111  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,111 total confirmed cases (up 94 from 3,017 on April 27)
  • 1,913 active cases (down 67)
  • 1,146 recovered (up 159)
  • 114 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 104 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down five)
  • 52 deaths (up two)
  • 20 patients currently on a ventilator (down five)
  • 208 cases in nursing homes (up five); 115 nursing home staff (no change)

Of the 94 new cases, 20 are from Cummins State Prison and 74 are from the community. The updated totals from Cummins include 860 inmates and 51 staff who have tested positive. From the Federal Correctional Institute in Forrest City, there are now 87 inmates and 12 staff who have tested positive.

Gov. Hutchinson and Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, announced the Phase One reopening schedule for Arkansas State Parks. The target date for renewing overnight visits to state parks is set for May 1, and is for in-state residents with self-contained RV units only. Park bathhouses will not be open at this time, and social distancing measures will be enforced. Two additional elements of the Phase One reopening of parks have a target date of May 15. Cabins, lodges and other overnight rentals are scheduled to be renewed at this time, but will be restricted to reservations between Fridays and Mondays to allow for safe and thorough cleaning and sanitation. Visitor information centers, retail establishment and exhibits are also scheduled to reopen. This includes the following, with limited capacity: restaurants and food service facilities; museums and exhibits; gift shops and golf pro shops; and marinas and rental equipment. Hurst said that full, detailed information about the Phase One reopening will be available at arkansasstateparks.com and on the state parks’ social media outlets.

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(04/27/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 276 over weekend to 3,017  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 3,017 total confirmed cases (up 276 from 2,741 on April 24)
  • 112 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 109 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up five since April 24)
  • 50 deaths (up five since April 23)
  • 25 patients currently on a ventilator (no change since April 24)
  • 316 cases involving healthcare workers (up 31 since April 24)
  • 203 cases in nursing homes (up 27 since April 24); 115 nursing home staff (up 13)

The Arkansas Surge Campaign encouraging residents to get tested if symptomatic exceeded the goal to reach 1,500 tests daily on Friday and Saturday. A total of 1,506 test results came in since yesterday with a positivity rate of 1.8%. The total number of tests in the state reached 40,074, and the overall positivity rate is 7.5%

Gov. Hutchinson reviewed the criteria from the phased recommendations in the White House’s Opening Up America Again plan, and he showed graphs illustrating that the state is on the right track with the three main criteria – symptoms, cases and hospitals.

Dr. Nate Smith shared the update with Cummins State Prison, which now has 856 positive cases and only 32 test results pending. They are up to 50 positive staff members with 15 tests pending.

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(04/24/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 276 to total of 2,741  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 2,741 total confirmed cases (up 276 from 2,465 on April 23)
  • 1,763 active cases, discounting recoveries (932; up 30) and deaths (46; up one)
  • 109 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 104 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up three)
  • 25 patients currently on a ventilator (up one)
  • 285 cases involving healthcare workers (up 10)
  • 176 cases in nursing homes (up two); 102 nursing home staff (up three); 34 facilities with active cases

In the past 24 hours, a total number of 2,808 test results were received, which is the largest single-day total to date with the previous one-day high at around 1,600. There was a 4.1% positivity rate, which is below the overall average of 7.9%. The Arkansas Surge Campaign continues today and tomorrow, with the slogan that “if you think you have symptoms, don’t wait – get tested.” Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said there is concern of the three-day increase in positive cases from the community (notwithstanding the new cases from the prisons), particularly from the northwest and northeast areas of the state. Of the 276 new cases today, 198 are from Cummins State Prison, with 78 from the community.

Gov. Hutchinson announced a goal to reopen dental procedures starting May 18. The Arkansas Department of Health will distribute appropriate guidelines prior to the reopening.

Also, the governor approved an additional $1 million to cover an the 100 business bridge loan applications that were left unfunded when the initial $5 million was exhausted for the previously approved 246 loans, which retained almost 2,500 full-time jobs and nearly 1,000 part-time positions.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston reported that unemployment claims in Arkansas have surpassed 170,000, with the nationwide total over 26 million. He said that from 6 a.m. till noon tomorrow, Saturday, April 25, the EZARK website where unemployment claims are submitted (https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/unemployment/ezarc/) will be down to allow for an upgrade to a larger mainframe for additional capacity. Also, starting this Sunday, the Call Center (844-908-2178) will be open seven days a week. Preston said that those who have lost employer-based health insurance due to COVID-19 may qualify for a marketplace qualifying health plan. Call the Arkansas Insurance Department, 844-355-3262, for more information. Lastly, Preston said they hope to have the system up and running by the end of the month to process claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is for self-employed and freelance workers, as a part of the CARES Act.

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(04//24/20) Face Covering Required on Intracity Transit Beginning 6:00 a.m., Monday, April 27, all passengers must use a face covering at all times while on the bus.

This can be a disposable mask, a cloth mask, a bandanna, scarf or other suitable arrangement that covers the nose and mouth.

Intracity Transit will have a supply of cloth masks for riders who need one. We will provide one face covering per rider that do not have one until the supply is gone, so please plan ahead. These masks are NOT “N95” masks but are provided to help contain any droplets from a cough or sneeze.

Any passenger who does not maintain a cover over their nose and mouth will be required to leave the bus at the next bus stop.

Spanish Translation / Español Traducción:

Requisito de Mascara Facial

A partir del dia Lunes 27 de abril, todo pasajero debe usar una mascara facial para abordar y mientras este en el autobus.

La mascara facial puede ser desechable, de algodon, o una bufanda o cualquier otro tipo de mascara facial que cubra la boca y la nariz.

Transito tendra mascaras faciales para el que necesite. Una por pasajero hasta que se acabe el inventorio.

Estas mascaras no son "N95" pero pueden ayudar a contener gotas de un estornudo o tos.

Todo pasajero que no mantenga la mascara facial que le cubra la boca y la nariz, tendra que bajarse del autobus en la proxima parada.

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(04/23/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 189 to 2,465  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 2,465 total confirmed cases (up 189 from 2,276 on April 22)
  • 109 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 101 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up 4)
  • 24 patients currently on a ventilator (up one)
  • 45 COVID-19-related deaths (up three)
  • 174 cases in nursing homes (up 4); 31 facilities with active cases

Of the 189 new cases, 122 of them are from the Cummins State Prison and 67 are from the statewide community, but also include some staff at Cummins. The updated total at Cummins includes 687 inmates and 35 staff.

Gov. Hutchinson announced a two-day campaign to encourage Arkansas residents to get tested if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 – fever, cough or shortness of breath. The effort, called Arkansas Surge Campaign, has a goal to maximize the state’s current capacity of testing and to meet 1,500 tests each of the next two days.

There are five drive-thru COVID-19 evaluation/testing locations in Garland County:

  • 1629 Airport Road (Garland County)
  • 4419 Highway 7 North (Hot Springs Village)
  • 124 Hollywood Avenue (Hot Springs)
  • 100 McGowan Court (Hot Springs)
  • 4517 Park Avenue (Garland County)

The campaign comes after the initial meeting of the governor’s advisory group on testing strategies in Arkansas. They also provided an initial report with four recommended strategies that the governor accepted. They include expanding testing for all patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with potential exposure, expanding testing for contact investigations, screening for the virus in high-risk settings and to develop a strategy for statewide antibody testing.

Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS, said that antibody testing, over the long term, may be the single most important piece of screening information that we can develop to ensure we understand how we can mitigate this pandemic and to prevent a big second bump next fall when the respiratory season reappears. He said two current barriers are that the current antibody tests are not as sensitive or reliable as they would like them to be and that we do not know enough biologically about the COVID-19 infection. For instance, we do not know if someone who has been infected could be re-infected. 

In Hot Springs, the April Solid Waste Spring Fling cleanup event originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, has been cancelled due to COVID-19. It will be tentatively rescheduled for the fall. 

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(04/22/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 49 to 2,276  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 2,276 total confirmed cases (up 49 from 2,227 on April 21)
  • 109 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,371 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 97 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up 11)
  • 23 patients currently on a ventilator (down four)
  • 42 COVID-19-related deaths (down one; previous death reclassified as Missouri resident)
  • 863 recovered (up 54)
  • 262 healthcare workers with COVID-19; 148 have recovered
  • 170 cases in nursing homes (up 35); 31 facilities with active cases

Gov. Hutchinson made two announcements regarding the lifting of restrictions in the state:

  • Effective April 27, hospitals and clinics will again be able to perform some elective procedures. Criteria for allowed procedures includes that patients test negative to COVID-19 within 48 hours of the procedure, that it be a day surgery or procedure and that the patient have no symptoms related to the virus. It will also be encouraged that facilities start with a smaller volume and have adequate supplies of PPE.
  • A timeline for future decisions leading to May 4 was outlined, with the following dates and decision announcements as follows: April 29, restaurants; April 30, gyms; May 1, beauty and barber salons; May 4, places of worship and larger venues.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith shared that 13 of the 49 new cases were from the Cummins State Prison, bringing their total 681 inmates and 14 staff as of 10 p.m. Tuesday night. Additional barracks and staff will be tested, and he said it is likely there will be additional positive cases.

Gov. Hutchinson asked “the people of Arkansas to be diligent, and do what we need to do to protect ourselves and protect other. We are on a good path, but you can see how quickly something can flare up, and we all want to make sure we are in this for the long haul and do a good job.”

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(04/21/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 2,227 At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 2,227 total confirmed cases (up 304 from 1,923 on April 20)
  • 109 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,375 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 86 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (no change)
  • 27 patients currently on a ventilator (up three)
  • 43 COVID-19-related deaths (up one)
  • 135 nursing home residents (up seven)
  • 809 recovered (up 60)

Of the 304 new cases today, 262 are out of Cummins State Prison and 42 are from outside of Cummins, which provide the statewide perspective. Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith shared three points of good news related to the data: if you take out the positives from the correction system, our numbers are going down; of the counties with more than 100 cases, none are on the upward trend; and although the correctional facility numbers are alarming, once we know who is positive, a prison setting is the optimal place to control an outbreak.

Gov. Hutchinson announced that he signed an executive order today creating working group on testing capacity in Arkansas. He has acknowledged the importance of testing from day one, and said there have been challenges in obtaining reagents and with the supply line, but it is getting better. The working group of doctors and testing experts and officials has short-term goals in order to enhance the testing quickly here in the state and determine what the challenges are in the supply chain. The long-term goals will be to look at next fall where we will still have the need for testing.

The state’s economic recovery task force had its first meeting today. Steuart Walton chairs the group of around 40 citizens from across Arkansas who are engaged in a multitude of different industries. Walton said they are working hard to provide recommendations to the state by May 4. They plan to provide an interim report by the end of May and a final report by the end of June. They are also focused on a strategic set of recommendations for businesses and industry across Arkansas to help them thrive in the recovery and far into the future.

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(04/21/20)  Action needed for Social Security beneficiaries with dependents and who do not file tax returns to receive $500 per child payment  

Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes need to act by Wednesday, April 22, in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children quickly.

Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who do not file tax returns will soon start receiving their automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department. However, people receiving benefits who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes, and have qualifying children under age 17, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment. They should immediately go to the IRS’s webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here and visit the “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” section to provide their information.

By taking this proactive step to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, their payment at this time will be $1,200. People would then be required to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.

People with Direct Express debit cards who enter information at the IRS’s website should complete all of the mandatory questions, but they may leave the bank account information section blank as Treasury already has their Direct Express information on file.

Additionally, any new beneficiaries since January 1, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS’s Non-Filers website to enter their information as they will not receive automatic payments from Treasury.

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(04/21/20)  COVID-19 testing in Garland County continues to mitigate the spread  The coordinated efforts of the Hot Springs/Garland County Call Center, hospitals and clinics and city and county authorities who are acquiring testing kits and supplies continue to be the driving force behind the successful COVID-19 mitigation in our area.

At the virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force on April 20, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby shared more information about how Garland County is leading the way in regards to testing capacity across the state.

“Among the 10 most populous counties in the state, Garland County is way ahead,” he said. “As far as testing, we are the stars. The hospitals and clinics need to keep it up, and they need to keep getting the credit they deserve.”

Bo Robertson, Garland County emergency management director, echoed Dr. Shelby’s sentiments about testing and added that the highest positivity rate in the county so far has been 9.3%. With it now at around 7%, the hope is that we are trending downward.

A downward trend in call volume was reported from the COVID-19 Call Center. It will remain open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, but Robertson and the center are working on having the 501-760-4307 number forwarded to a cell phone for weekend hours moving forward.

The call center has been the first line of triage for possible COVID-19 cases, and will continue to be; but with the Arkansas Department of Health expanding the criteria for testing, the task force has decided to also publicize the county’s drive-thru evaluation locations:

  • 1629 Airport Road (Garland County)
  • 4419 Highway 7 North (Hot Springs Village)
  • 124 Hollywood Avenue (Hot Springs)
  • 100 McGowan Court (Hot Springs)
  • 4517 Park Avenue (Garland County)

Volumes continue to be low for area hospitals, as shared weekly by CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center representatives on the task force. They want to ensure those in the region that the hospitals are available to take care of individuals in need. Area hospitals are not overwhelmed by the virus, as hospitals might be in the nation’s hot spots. In fact, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Hot Springs has remained very low. Telemedicine has helped fill in gaps of health care during the pandemic, but there are instances where telemedicine is not effective. Residents should not hesitate to go to their doctor, or if emergency care is needed, to the hospital.

Both the Garland County Sheriff’s Office and the Hot Springs Police Department shared a continuing of calls relating to domestic violence, mental health issues and breaking and entering, particularly of storage facilities and vehicles. Asst. Police Chief Walt Everton said that although call volumes in these categories are presently up, which match national trends, the annual statistics are still coming in lower than by this time last year. It was also mentioned that more people appear to be getting out and about, as opposed to the stay-at-home recommendations set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Governor’s Office.

City Manager Bill Burrough shared that the City is adding $15,000 to the $254,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds being allocated to the COVID-19 response, whether it be for testing supplies or reagents, PPE, homeless outreach, or other pandemic-related needs. The application process will begin soon for these funds, and may be used for past expenses to help the call center and drive-thru clinics.

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) is continuing to update the online resource guide at www.hsresourceguide.org, including information on available homeless shelters in the area. Also included is information about available area daycares, along with the comprehensive lists of around 25 categories including health, mental health, children, food, etc.  [Read more...]

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(04/20/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,923  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,923 total confirmed cases (up 228 from 1,695 on April 17)
  • 107 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,133 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 93 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (no change)
  • 24 patients currently on a ventilator (up one)
  • 42 COVID-19-related deaths (up five)
  • 244 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up 16)

Although Arkansas is faring well in terms of tests per capita in relation to states nationwide, Hutchinson hopes to expand beyond just contact tracing testing to broader surveillance testing. He also said that as the state progresses through the phases of reopening, beginning with the lifting of some restrictions on May 4, Arkansans will need to continue to wear masks, social distance and avoid gatherings.

Accounting for a majority of the state’s total case count over the weekend were the additional positive results from Cummons State Prison. Of the 890 test results that were filed since the 1:30 p.m. press conference on Sunday, only 22 of the 142 new positive cases were from outside of the prison.

First Lady Susan Hutchinson and Director Mischa Martin, of the Department of Human Services’ Division of Children & Family Services, shared the importance of reporting suspected child abuse or neglect. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and the pandemic has only exasperated the issue as children are not coming into contact with as many professionals. As such, individuals are encouraged to call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-844-Save-A-Child, which is available 24/7, to report suspected abuse. Since the pandemic began, there has been almost a 50% increase in the number of calls compared to the same time period last year for a current total of 3,148 calls received. Martin also shared the Mental Health and Addiction Services Support Line, 1-844-763-0198, which is open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, is available 24/7.

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(04/17/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,695; May 4 goal for lifting restriction  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,695 total confirmed cases (up 75 from 1,620 on April 16)
  • 107 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,065 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 93 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up eight)
  • 23 patients currently on a ventilator (up two)
  • 37 COVID-19-related deaths (no change)
  • 228 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up five)

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith reported on the outbreaks in the prisons. The Federal Correctional Institute at Forest City has seven new inmates with COVID-19, for an updated total of 62. Three new inmates at Little Rock Community Corrections account for a new total there of 89 cases, including staff. Cummins State Prison had 89 new positive cases, for a new total of 129 cases. The new numbers at Cummins State Prison are not yet included in the overall case updates because the Little Rock VA Hospital assisted in those tests.  

Following a report to the governor from his Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response, Hutchinson announced that May 4 is the target date for the state to begin lifting some of the restrictions that are currently in place. Arkansas is already meeting some of the criteria offered by the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. Arkansas is still in an upswing on new cases, and the guidelines require a downward trajectory within a 14-day period. The state is increasing testing capacity every day, and recently expanded criteria to allow testing of all symptomatic individuals, but Hutchinson said we still need to increase in that area. As hospitalizations have remained less than 100, the state remains ready with ample ventilators and general hospital and ICU beds to meet all foreseeable needs, according to Smith.

Smith and Hutchinson both continued to strongly encourage social distancing with cloth facial coverings in public when distancing is not possible, handwashing, staying at home when ill and avoiding groups greater than 10. “To meet the criteria to go into Phase I, we have to be able to manage the spread and continue to reduce that, and we need everyone’s cooperation to follow the guidelines,” said Hutchinson.

With the question of whether Arkansas will take a statewide or county-level approach, Smith indicated that the likely path with be statewide, with respect given to the regional differences across the state.

Possibly even prior to Arkansas entering Phase I of the tiered re-opening, Smith suggested that the state will try to start back some of the elective surgical procedures in a safe manner. Since those have been restricted, hospitals and clinics have seen less patients, which equates to decreased revenues and decreased staffing, Smith explained. “To be able to take care of patients with COVID-19 as well as other medical and surgical conditions, we need to have a fully-staffed and robust hospitals and other medical facilities,” he said.

Hutchinson also recognized the service to our country of Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 42, of Fort Smith, who passed away from COVID-19 after contracting the virus while aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

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(04/16/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,620  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,620 total confirmed cases (up 51 from 1,569 on April 15)
  • 105 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,035 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 85 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up two)
  • 21 patients currently on a ventilator (down five)
  • 37 COVID-19-related deaths (up four)
  • 223 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up eight); 81 recovered

Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith both shared that although the graphs showing new cases and hospitalizations are seemingly beginning to plateau, Arkansans need to continue to follow the mitigation guidelines and continue to flatten the curve.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston shared the launch of a new website: arunemployment.com. The unemployment hotline (1-844-908-2178) also has extended its hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with additional workers answering phone calls. For those who are self-employed, freelance or contract workers, and are still awaiting the unemployment program to be launched, they can sign up for the new email alert system for status updates at bit.ly/3e5qZWd. With regards to the Small Business Association (SBA) loans provided by the CARES Act, a total of 14,803 Arkansas businesses have been approved for payroll protection, equating to around $2.1 billion.

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(04/15/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,569  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,569 total confirmed cases (up 71 from 1,498 on April 14)
  • 103 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,047 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 83 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up two)
  • 26 patients currently on a ventilator (down three)
  • 33 COVID-19-related deaths (up one)
  • 215 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up nine)

Dr. Nate Smith shared that the testing capacity is being expanded to include criteria allowing a test for anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Previously, some symptomatic individuals may have been declined a test, but capacity has increased at the ADH Public Health Lab and especially from the commercial sector. Because of the previous limitations, tests were restricted to include high-risk populations, those who have had contact with someone who has tested positive or those with a travel history that puts them more at risk. Smith and Hutchinson both hope this increase in testing will provide a clearer picture of where Arkansas is in terms of mitigating this pandemic.

Hutchinson also announced that the state received approval from Medicaid Services in Washington to start direct bonus payments for certain healthcare workers. “This is extraordinarily good news for those that have been on the front lines, that have been putting themselves at risk, that have shown their commitment to healthcare during this natural emergency,” Hutchinson said. Payments will be backdated to April 5, and will proceed through May 30, with a possible extension based on the status of the pandemic. This will benefit workers both in public and private healthcare facilities. More information will be made available on April 15 following the press conference at the Governor’s COVID-19 updates website

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(04/14/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,498  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,498 total confirmed cases (up 88 from 1,410 on April 13)
  • 102 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,024 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 81 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up seven)
  • 29 patients currently on a ventilator (up one)
  • 32 COVID-19-related deaths (up two)
  • 206 healthcare workers with COVID-19; 65 have recovered

Gov. Hutchinson announced two executive orders. The first allows first responders and frontline healthcare workers to file for workers compensation claims if there is a causal relationship between catching COVID-19 and their work responsibilities. The second provides liability immunity for medical emergency responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also shared charts showing that Arkansas is not at its peak in cases, but the data may be showing the state approaching a plateau. “We are not ready to relax our social distancing efforts,” Hutchinson said. “Let me assure everyone that we will make decisions on the best public health advice. Arkansas has positioned itself to fight this battle for the long haul, and we understand this is not a 30-day battle or a 60-day fight, but it will continue in some fashion into the future.”

Dr. Nate Smith shared that a high percentage of total cases in the state involve federal and state prisons (10% of the total cases) and nursing homes (11% of the total cases). With regards to nursing homes, there are a total of 28 statewide with active investigations. There have been 93 residents and 71 workers test positive, and a total of six deaths. This number of deceased is relatively low, said Smith, “partly because of the very aggressive contact investigations going on in these nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

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(04/14/20) Garland County has more testing per capita than any county in the state  At the virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force on April 13, the rise in confirmed cases in Garland County was attributed to the county’s high rate of testing.

“Our area hospitals and clinics have really stepped up with regards to COVID-19 testing. Per capita, Garland County is doing more testing than any county in the state,” said Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby.

Hot Springs City Manager Bill Burrough and Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney both attributed the high testing capacity to the reported number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in our area. Garland County had 99 of the state’s 1,398 confirmed cases, according to the Arkansas Department of Health online status updates webpage as of 11 a.m. on April 13. The total number of tests recorded in the county was at 1,231, and there have been 27 recoveries and no deaths.

Burrough said that Hot Springs is being allocated an additional round of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, courtesy of the CARES Act, to be allocated to COVID-19-related relief. Hot Springs is being granted around $274,000, and the plan is to work with the hospitals and clinics to purchase rapid-response coronavirus testing supplies.

These CDBG funds are a reminder for residents to complete the census. Although the pandemic has taken attention away from the 2020 Census, everyone in Hot Springs and Garland County is strongly encouraged to take a few minutes to complete the short survey, which can be done online (with the code received in the mail or with a street address), by phone or by using the paper form and returning it in the mail. A complete count ensures Hot Springs and Garland County receive the appropriate amount of federal funding based on our area’s true population. Not only do these federal funds go toward meal programs, community development and road improvement projects, and so much more, they also assist in other times of need, such as this ongoing crisis.  

All reports on the task force call were optimistic in terms of the current supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospital bed and ventilator availability.

Bo Robertson, Garland County Emergency Management Director, could not be in the meeting as he was documenting property damage in the county from the recent thunderstorms. His efforts were applauded by Mahoney for “working day and night to secure PPE” for our area. “Everyone in the county has done a great job flattening the curve,” added Mahoney.

Physician clinics can make requests for PPE by using the website of the Arkansas Medical Society, arkmed.org, as it is coordinating PPE distribution to outpatient clinics.

Ty Farris, of the Hot Springs Fire Department, urged all in the meeting to continue to set a good example by following the recommendations to stay at home when possible. “There is still a lot of traffic out there. Especially in the next couple of weeks as we head toward the peak, encourage people to stay at home more than they are,” he said, referencing a lot of people being out over the past weekend when the weather was nice. [Read more...]

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(04/13/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,410  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,410 total confirmed cases (up 239 from 1,171 on April 10; up 130 since April 12, which is the largest single-day increase to date)
  • 101 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 989 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 74 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including 8 newly hospitalized
  • 28 patients currently on a ventilator
  • 30 COVID-19-related deaths
  • 193 healthcare workers with COVID-19; 58 have recovered

Accounting for clusters of cases leading to the rise in the total statewide count over the weekend were 55 confirmed cases from the federal correctional institution in Forest City, as well as 43 cases from Cummins Maximum Security Prison Unit.

Governor Hutchinson said that this is not a time to let up or to decrease our intensity on fighting the spread of the virus. “Until we have reached our peak, we have to wear our masks, socially distance and avoid large gatherings,” he said. Our efforts thus far have flattened the curve. The projected peak for the state, as calculated by the University of Washington, has been pushed back from April 24 to April 29.

Hutchinson also announced he is forming a Medical Advisory Board for the post-COVID-19 peak, which will be chaired by Dr. Nate Smith. The board will look into what the state can do to avoid peaks in the future, including what types of mitigation efforts we can have in place.

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(04/10/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 77 to 1,171  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,171 total confirmed cases (up 77 from 1,094 on April 9)
  • 836 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 86 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up 13); there were 23 newly hospitalized, while 10 were discharged from the hospital
  • 33 patients currently on a ventilator (up two)
  • 23 COVID-19-related deaths (up two)
  • 312 COVID-19 patients recovered (up 59)
  • 168 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up 10)

Hutchinson shared several two COVID-19-related graphs. Two weeks ago, the projection would have brought us to 3,500 statewide infections, “but Arkansans have beat that,” he said. The University of Washington projection estimating hospital bed usage had the April 10 total at 200, yet the actual number has proven much lower. Hutchinson said that he and Dr. Nate Smith had a conversation and briefing with Dr. Anthony Fauci, and that Fauci gave his stamp of approval with the steps the state has taken and the optimistic results.

Hutchinson shared that Arkansas has lost its first state employee to COVID-19. Richard Richardson was a substance abuse counselor for Community Corrections, and “he served our state well.”

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said that the number of unemployment claims are up to approximately 132,000, which is a little slower than the pace that was recorded last week. Anyone who filed in the weeks ending on March 21 or March 28 should have already received their unemployment compensation, as well as their additional pandemic compensation from the federal government. For those who filed on the week ending on April 4 should expect the deposit on Monday.

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(04/09/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases up 71 to 1,094  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,094 total confirmed cases (up 71 from 1,023 on April 8)
  • 841 active cases, discounting recoveries and deaths
  • 73 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (down three); there were 21 newly hospitalized, while 24 were discharged from the hospital
  • 31 patients currently on a ventilator (up one)
  • 21 COVID-19-related deaths (up three); two of the deceased were in their 60s, and one was in their 70s
  • 253 COVID-19 patients recovered (up 45)
  • 158 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up 18)

Hutchinson shared several new COVID-19-related charts and graphs. One showed Arkansas compared to all SEC/southern states with hospitalizations per 100,000 residents. Arkansas was the lowest at 2.6 per 100,000. Another graph compared the projected use of hospital beds to the actual numbers, with data from the University of Washington’s projections. At this point, Arkansas was projected to need around 170 hospital beds for COVID-19, yet the state’s actual need has been around 70. The Governor attributed these positive numbers to Arkansans following the social distancing guidelines.

“I want to urge all Arkansans, as we approach this weekend, we do not need to take anything for granted. Understand where we are and the importance of not violating the limitations on social gatherings,” said Hutchinson. “We need to restrain ourselves; we need to follow the guidelines and wear your mask if you can’t socially distance. Protect yourself and protect others.”

Dr. Nate Smith explained that since Arkansas said that since Arkansas is surrounded by states with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, anyone traveling into Arkansas from these areas or any other area of higher case counts should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr. Richard Smith, chair of Psychiatry at UAMS, encouraged everyone to be mindful of maintaining his or her mental health and assisting others where it is feasible and safe.

"Multiple times a day, we need to pause, disconnect from the urgency of the situation, take a deep breath and relax,” he said. “This is reminiscent of the flood we faced last year. We knew it was coming for weeks, and even after it crested, the water was high and dangerous for weeks to come. Unfortunately, the same is true for this crisis. However, just like the flood, this crisis too will end and we will return slowly to normal activities.”

Paula Stone, deputy director at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said that every Arkansan has the ability to access mental health or addiction services. For those with health insurance, call your insurance and they can help you find a provider. For those with Medicaid, without insurance or without guidance from your insurance, calls can be made to the DHS Mental Health and Addiction Services Support Line at 844-763-0918, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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(04/08/20) Arkansas COVID-19 cases surpass 1,000 on four-week anniversary of first case  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,023 total confirmed cases (up 77 from 946 on April 7)
  • 76 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up two)
  • 30 patients currently on a ventilator (up four)
  • 18 COVID-19-related deaths (no change)
  • 208 COVID-19 patients recovered (up 56)
  • 147 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up 14)
  • 68 nursing homes residents or staff with COVID-19 (up seven)

The federal correctional facility in Forrest City has no new cases, so the total of 29 remains unchanged. There are additional suspected cases, those with symptoms, who will be tested.

A total of 814 test results were received since yesterday, and the positivity rate was 6.6%.

Dr. Nate Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health, shared that the recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report outlined two family gatherings in Chicago – a funeral and birthday party – from which there were 16 COVID-19 cases and three resulting deaths. He encouraged creativity in risk-free ways to celebrate such family events.

Smith added that today marked the four-week anniversary since Arkansas’ first COVID-19 case. “There have been a lot of changes in our state. For the most part, people have done a very good job of social distancing,” he said. “That is very hard on us emotionally, I know. Many people are feeling socially isolated and may be feeling financially stressed, and may also be struggling with anxiety and depression.” We all need to think about our emotional health, practice self-care and reach out to others, he concluded.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said there have been more than 110,000 unemployment claims in the state so far, which he anticipates will continue to rise to somewhere around 150,000 by the end of this week. The Governor waived the requirement for those filing for unemployment to have to do it in person, so Preston urged use of the website – https://www.ezarc.adws.arkansas.gov/

Preston said that the first round of pandemic unemployment checks went out last night. This is the additional $600 from the CARES Act on top of the normal unemployment insurance checks from the state. Guidance was received on Sunday night regarding the pandemic unemployment assistance for independent contractors, freelancers and self-employed. This new program will require the build-out of a new system to process claims, but Arkansas is not unique in this challenge. It will probably be a three-week time frame, but payments will be able to be backdated. Those interested in SBA loans are encouraged to visit with their bankers.  

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(04/07/20) Area first responders bracing for projected late-April COVID-19 peak  At the virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force on Monday, April 6, local hospital and first-responder representatives reported they are hopeful the virus-related hospitalizations remain low, but they are prepared for a possible surge as the state’s peak is forecasted for the last week in April.

Although COVID-19 data for Arkansas provides optimism, there is concern that asymptomatic carriers of this contagious virus could cause the numbers to continue to increase.

“If you think you may have contracted COVID-19, either because you are starting to show symptoms or you have been exposed to someone who has been symptomatic or tested positive, it is critically important that you obey the quarantine order and stay at home,” Hot Springs Fire Chief Ed Davis said in reference to a report of a symptomatic COVID-19 patient picking up prescriptions at a local pharmacy this weekend.

Deliveries of food and/or required medications to the elderly, disabled and other high-risk individuals by medically-screened and vetted drivers is available by Sheep Dog Impact Assistance of Central Arkansas by calling 501-712-5514, extension 707.

The Garland County Sherriff’s Office reported an increase in calls over the weekend relating to domestic and personal wellbeing issues. There was a similar rise two weeks ago, but it since stabilized before the uptick again over the weekend.

For help in dealing with stress and coping with the anxiety, social distancing and other emotionally-challenging aspects of this crisis, please visit the “Stress and Coping” tab on the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/index.html.

The online resource guide continues to be updated daily at www.hsresourceguide.org. Included is information about available area daycares. 

For those still needing to file taxes, UWO continues to offer assistance. UWO will process tax returns for individuals by appointment by calling 501-623-2505.  [Read more...]

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(04/06/20) Statewide cases at 946, with 18 total deaths  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 946 total confirmed cases (up from 875 on April 6)
  • 74 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (no change)
  • 26 patients currently on a ventilator (up four)
  • 18 COVID-19-related deaths (up two)
  • 152 COVID-19 patients recovered (up 50)
  • 134 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up 12)
  • 61 nursing homes residents or staff with COVID-19 (up two)

The federal correctional facility in Forrest City now has a total of 29 cases (24 inmates and five staff). A team from the CDC is scheduled to arrive this evening and be on-site tomorrow to assist.

There were a total of 1,436 test results received since yesterday, which is the greatest number in a 24-hour period and one of the lowest positivity rates of 1.6%. The majority was from commercial labs, at 1,285, with Arkansas Department of Health (AHD) completing 73 and UAMS processing 78.

Hutchinson also shared that Arkansas has the lowest hospitalization rate (2.5 for every 100,000) among our neighboring states. He credited this statistic and the relatively low infection rate per 100,000 to Arkansans and businesses following the social distancing guidelines. He gave special thanks to childcare workers in the state who are making special efforts to be sure they can be there for children of our first responders and healthcare workers. He also shared appreciation to Dr. Bruce Murphy and the Arkansas Heart Hospital for donating through Abbott Laboratories 500 of the fast-response COVID-19 tests to be designated for healthcare workers.

Hutchinson has amended the executive order that gives cities the flexibility to impose curfews and close city- and county-owned parks and facilities, as long as they do not impede commerce and that it is coordinated with the Governor’s Office in an effort to achieve a common approach across the state.

The Governor said reports of groups or individuals not abiding by the social distancing and other mitigation guidelines should be made to the ADH hotline at 1-800-803-7847 or 1-800-554-5738 (after hours).

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(04/07/20) Intracity Transit to screen passengers for COVID-19 symptoms Due to COVID-19 public health concerns, all individuals attempting to board the Intracity Transit buses will undergo a body temperature check with a non-invasive, no-touch thermometer, effective immediately and until further notice.

Individuals with an elevated temperature will not be allowed to board the transit and will be advised to contact the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center (501-760-4307) to request a screening for a COVID-19 test.

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(04/06/20) Statewide cases at 875, with 74 hospitalized  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 875 total confirmed cases (up from 830 on April 5)
  • 74 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up from 67)
  • 22 patients currently on a ventilator (down five)
  • 16 COVID-19-related deaths (no change)
  • 102 COVID-19 patients recovered (up five)
  • 122 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up eight)
  • 13 nursing homes with at least one resident or worker with COVID-19

Hutchinson announced that the schools in the state will not have on-site instruction for the remainder of the year, but rather alternate methods of instruction (AMI) will continue. Arkansas Commissioner of Education Johnny Key shared that most districts have indicated they can continue AMI through the end of the year; other districts will receive support from the Arkansas Public School Resource Center. All districts may continue nutritional services, as long as they can follow CDC guidelines relating to mitigation measures.

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(04/06/20) Third Updated Press Release from Garland County District Court Garland County District Court will continue to operate its essential court functions. All cases currently scheduled through May 1, 2020, shall be continued effective immediately pursuant the Supreme Court of Arkansas Per Curiam Order issued April 3, 2020. The schedule of continued court dates are set forth at the end of this Press Release. Please consult the schedule before calling the Court Clerk’s Office as the Clerk’s Office is handling a high number of calls during this time.

Unless the County Judge closes the Courthouse, the District Court Clerk’s office will remain open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer calls and assist in re-scheduling your cases.

Persons making monthly payments will still be able to make their regular scheduled payment in person. In order to avoid long lines and the risk of exposure to COVID-19 virus, we strongly encourage you to make payments online at https://pay.arcourts.gov. You can also mail a cashier’s check or money order to the address listed above.

The Jail Docket for those persons arrested on new charges will continue to be held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday via Video Conference, but the courtroom will ONLY be open to essential court personnel.

Court dates and case information for your case can be found online at: https://caseinfo.arcourts.gov

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(04/03/20) Statewide cases at 704, up 61 since yesterday At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, updates were given regarding the crisis that included the state’s current total number of cases: 704. This total is up 61 from yesterday’s number of 643.

Among the statewide total of 704, there are 20 children (ages 18 and younger), 487 adults (ages 19-64) and 197 older adults (ages 65 and above). There were no additional deaths, so the total remains at 12. The number of healthcare workers who have tested positive is up five from yesterday to a total of 96. There are currently 71 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 26 on ventilators. A total of 60 have recovered.

Hutchinson shared that the first shipment of hospital protective gear, or PPE, has arrived. It is the first from the state’s own efforts of procurement, and he applauded the work being done by the UAMS procurement team. This shipment will be distributed to hospitals across the state, based on priority. Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS, said another shipment is scheduled to arrive on April 12, and it would be enough to support the state for 30 days.

The governor said that testing continues to increase. The statewide total of processed tests is at 9,626. Yesterday, the total number of test reports was 658, which included 62 from UAMS, 144 from the Arkansas Department of Health and 452 from commercial labs.

The governor continued to stress the importance of social distancing. He has been impressed at what he has witnessed with regards to businesses taking the social distancing guidelines seriously, but urges individual Arkansans to understand and follow their important role in following the best practices.

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(04/03/20) Hot Springs receives more than $250K in CDBG COVID-19 aid Hot Springs will receive a total of $254,743 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which recently became law.

The grant funds can be used to make improvements to public facilities that are necessary to the COVID-19 response, support businesses to increase economic development and provide increased public services during the outbreak. Hot Springs is among 13 Arkansas municipalities to be included in this first round of CDBG grants, and additional funding will be made available on a rolling basis.

“The coronavirus outbreak has impacted all parts of our life, resulting in difficult and uncertain times for families, workers and small businesses in our community,” said City Manager Bill Burrough. “Hot Springs is grateful our congressional delegation is investing $254,000 CDBG funds to help our citizens get through this public health crisis and emerge stronger than ever.”

The CARES Act allocated $5 billion to the CDBG program to help communities prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.

“Our communities need help addressing the severe, complex struggles presented by the coronavirus pandemic. We appreciate how quickly Secretary Ben Carson and his team at HUD have acted to award these grants. These funds are critical to overcoming the challenges our communities are facing,” said the Arkansas delegation of U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman.

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(04/02/20) Statewide cases at 643; Garland County total is 37  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, updates were given regarding the crisis that included the state’s current total number of cases: 643. This total is up 59 from yesterday’s number of 584.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, the number of positive cases in Garland County has risen to 37, with a total of 152 negative test results.

Among the statewide total of 643, there are 20 children (ages 18 and younger), 440 adults (ages 19-64) and 183 older adults (ages 65 and above). There were an additional two deaths; both had underlying health issues. The number of healthcare workers who have tested positive is up seven from yesterday to a total of 91. That total includes 10 physicians, 26 nurses and 4 certified nurse assistants (CNAs). There are currently 66 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 23 on ventilators. A total of 47 have recovered, which is up five from yesterday.

Hutchinson, in response to many questioning why Arkansas is only but a few states left that have not issued stay at home orders, explained that the state’s targeted approach to mitigating COVID-19 has thus far been successful at flattening the curve of new cases to levels below previous projections. The steps taken by the state – closing schools, restaurants and bars (except for dine-out), hair salons and barber shops, tattoo shops, gyms, movie theaters, etc. – have exceed steps taken in other states that have issued stay at home orders. He concluded that he and his task force will continue to make decisions based on good public health data. He said most Arkansans are following the mitigation steps, and official actions are taken when reports are made about groups not doing so.

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(04/01/20) City suspends water disconnections and penalties  The City of Hot Springs has suspended utility disconnections and penalties for late payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure all residents can continue to practice hand washing, as hygiene has proven fundamental to slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

If water issues arise at a residence or business, call the Utilities Emergency Service Center at 501-321-6200 or Utility Billing Services customer service at 501-321-6880.

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(04/01/20) Statewide cases at 584, up 61  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, updates were given regarding the crisis that included the state’s current total number of cases: 584. This total is up 61 from yesterday’s number of 523. Today’s number of cases in Garland County was not available at the time of the press conference as the state’s GIS online COVID-19 map had not been updated.

Among the statewide total of 523, there are 18 children (ages 18 and younger), 396 adults (ages 19-64) and 170 older adults (ages 65 and above). There were an additional two deaths from COVID-19, and both were stated to be in the older adult group. The number of healthcare workers who have tested positive is up five from yesterday to a total of 84. There are two additional current coronavirus patients on ventilators, bringing the current number to 25. A total of 42 have recovered.

Dr. Nate Smith shared that lab testing was scaled up yesterday as the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) processed 147 – their highest single-day output. The total number tested in the past 24 hours in Arkansas, including ADH, UAMS and private labs, was 903. The total tested up to date in Arkansas is just over 7,000. “We are making progress, but are obviously still not where we want to be to really get a good picture of where we are in the state,” said Smith.

Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, shared that three additional measures are being taken to mitigate the spread and flatten the curve: state parks are going to day use only, effective Friday, April 3; parking will be restricted to authorized parking areas; and three popular trails are being closed – Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park and the East and West Summit trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Hutchinson has recommended to the Secretary of the Interior that Buffalo River National Park be closed until it is safe to reopen. Approximately 60% of visitors there yesterday were from out of state.

Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, asked that those needing unemployment assistance who are self-employed, contract labor and others is this category to wait until further instructions arrive from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding how to process such claims with regards to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He hopes to have the needed information by the end of the week. He acknowledged all the staff whose unemployment claim workflow has increased from an average of 1,000 a week to the sudden surge of around 30,000 a week.

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(03/31/20) Statewide cases up 50 to 523  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, updates were given regarding the crisis that included the state’s current total number of cases: 523. This total is up 50 from yesterday’s number of 473. Today’s number of cases in Garland County is 31.

Among the statewide total of 523, there are 17 children (ages 18 and younger), 348 adults (ages 19-64) and 158 older adults (ages 65 and above). There was an additional death of an individual, who was stated to be in the older adult group. The number of healthcare workers who have tested positive is up six from yesterday to a total of 79. There are two additional current coronavirus patients on ventilators, bringing the current number to 23. A total of 35 have recovered.

Hutchinson showed the graph of projected cases moving forward to mid-April with a line showing actual cases up through yesterday, and the actual case line is trending lower than the projection. Hutchinson credited this trend with Arkansans being self-disciplined and following guidelines of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), which he said will save lives and get us out of this crisis and back to normal much quicker.

Hutchinson has been made aware of out-of-state visitors coming to Arkansas to continue to enjoy our state and national parks. This has become an issue as many are coming from areas considered to be hot spots of the coronavirus. He and his team are looking at ways to curtail these recreational out-of-state travelers, which may include the temporary closure of popular parks.

Hutchinson has authorized 40 additional Air and Army National Guard representatives to be activated to assist. Dr. Nate Smith, ADH director, said the National Guard has been helping to coordinate additional hospital beds to increase the state’s capacity, should it be needed.

Smith outlined how long quarantine should be, either for those who have tested positive or those who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. For those with a positive test and mild to moderate symptoms (not requiring hospitalization), a standard quarantine would be seven days past the onset of symptoms and at least three days without a fever. For those who have been exposed, the home quarantine time period is 14 days, as that is the incubation period for COVID-19. If no symptoms are present at that time, it is safe to return to work.

Hutchinson shared that he declared the Arkansas a Major Disaster State, and he expects a quick response in funding support from the federal government. He reported that there have been more than 300,000 unemployment claims to date. The next update in unemployment figures will be available this weekend.  He also has signed an executive order allowing notaries and wills to be completed through audio and visual means, rather than the standard in-person requirement.

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(03/31/20) Advisory for Travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans and All International Locations  The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) updated their recommendation on March 30 for a Self Home Quarantine for 14 days for all travelers from the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as those returning from New Orleans and all international locations. This is due to high rates of COVID-19 in those places as well as in a growing number of international locations. In the interest of the public health, all travelers who return from one of these locations are advised to quarantine at home for 14 days, starting from the date they left that location. If you develop fever, cough or other symptom of COVID-19, you should contact your doctor for advice on where to be evaluated.

You can find details of home quarantine here: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsservices/topics/covid-19-guidance-for-self-home-quarantine 

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(03/30/20) Task force: Non-emergency callers should call COVID-19 hotline  Reiterating the importance of COVID-19 non-emergency callers using the local hotline, steps taken by hospitals in Hot Springs to prepare for the possibility of an increase in cases and the continued efforts to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) were among the topics discussed at this morning’s Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force meeting.

The meeting, which was held via videoconference to ensure social distancing, included more than 15 first responder, healthcare and local authority representatives.

The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center/Hotline is available at 501-760-4307, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, as a first line of triage in an effort not to overrun our hospitals. The hotline is also available for adjoining and nearby counties, for which Hot Springs serves as the regional healthcare provider. Another option for anyone exhibiting symptoms is to call their primary care physician. Calls to 9-1-1 should be solely limited to anyone requiring an emergency response.

For those possibly needing emergency medical assistance, both the local COVID-19 hotline and LifeNet have experienced a number of callers who have expressed concern about being transported to the emergency room in fear of possible contraction of the virus.

“I want our public to know that our emergency departments are taking every precaution with regards to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The emergency departments are still operating and are available for emergency treatment, and people who are experiencing things such as chest pain or shortness of breath should go to an emergency department or call 9-1-1,” said Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby.

[Read more...]

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(03/30/20) Arkansas cases up to 473  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, it was shared that a rise in 47 statewide cases in the past 24 hours has brought the total number of cases to 473. There are a total of 62 current COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization, with 21 currently on ventilators. Of the total cases, there is a total of 17 children (age 18 and younger), 307 adults (ages 19-64) and 149 older adults (ages 65 and above). There are 73 healthcare workers who have confirmed cases of the virus, as well as six pregnant women.

There has been an additional death, bringing the total lost in Arkansas to seven. This is the first nursing-home related death, and there was an additional nursing home with a confirmed case, bringing the total number of nursing homes with cases in the state to five. There have been 47 nursing-home related confirmed cases.

Sports and outdoor activities are still encouraged, as long social distancing of at least six feet is maintained. State parks are currently open, but extensive measures have been taken to reduce the risk of spread. More information is available at https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/covid-19-update.

Governor Hutchinson shared that in addition to the $30 million initially allocated toward purchases of equipment (PPE, ventilators, etc.) in response to the COVID-19 crisis, an additional $45 million is being added as the demand versus the supply for these items has increased the prices and made the acquisition more challenging. He also made an executive order to establish a 15-member steering committee to guide, shape and make recommendations on the allocation of the anticipated $1.2 billion the state will receive in federal funds to fight COVID-19 from the Cares Act.

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(03/27/20) Hot Springs airport restricting access to FBO  In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Hot Springs Memorial Field airport will restrict access to the Private Aircraft Terminal (FBO) starting Monday, March 30.

Individuals will be screened, and only arriving and departing passengers and pilots will be allowed access to the FBO. The airport terminal and the tenants (Southern Airways, Hertz, Enterprise and CADA) will still have access to their operations and the airport main terminal. In addition, the airfield will remain open, and all aircraft services will still be available.  [Read more...]

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(03/27/20) City sport recreation suspended The City of Hot Springs Sport Recreation Department is suspending all leagues, tournaments and practices until April, 17, 2020. Sport Manager Adam Ussery will re-evaluate the situation and provide an update at that time. 

Ussery states, "our goal is to have everyone play in their respective league this year. Dates and lengths of leagues may be different from the original plan, but when this passes we feel that everyone will be ready to get outside and play some ball."

For questions or concerns, contact Adam at aussery@cityhs.net.

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(03/27/20) Arkansas cases up to 381; Garland County at 20  The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has gone up 48 since yesterday to a total of 381. The total in Garland County went up one additional case to 20. Of the total cases in Arkansas, 15 are children (ages 18 and younger), 242 are adults (ages 19-64) and 124 are older adults (ages 65 and above). There are 48 hospitalizations from COVID-19, which is up from 41 yesterday, and 17 patients require use of a ventilator, which is up from 13 yesterday. A total of 19 patients have met the criteria to be considered recovered.

Governor Asa Hutchinson shared that he and health experts are studying projections and models based on how the spread has occurred in other states, and one model estimates Arkansas could have around 3,500 confirmed cases by mid-April. Hutchinson said the goal is for our state to beat those projections, primarily by all Arkansans abiding by social distancing, avoiding public gatherings of 10 or more and by following the other guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health. Seeing as the public gathering recommendation became a statewide directive yesterday, Hutchinson met with state law enforcement today to begin enforcement.

The Corps of Engineers will be assisting in expanding the capacity of hospital beds in the state, and the state ordered 500 additional ventilators.

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(03/26/20) Arkansas cases up to 335; Garland County total at 18  The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state is up to 335 from yesterday’s total of 280. The total number of confirmed cases in Garland County is at 18, up two from yesterday.

There are a total of 41 COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized, up from 12 yesterday. Arkansas Department of Health Director Nate Smith shared that the primary reason for the increase in this total is due to a change in the way ADH is collecting information from the hospitals. The number of patients who have required use of a ventilator is up to 13, from yesterday’s total of four. Smith accredited this increase in the new data collection process, as well. There has been an additional death as a result of COVID-19, bringing the total loss of life from the virus in the state to three. Of the total number of cases, 14 are children (ages 18 and younger), 213 are adults (ages 19-64) and 108 are older adults (65 and older).

The Governor shared that the directive to cessation of all indoor social gatherings of 10 or more is complete and enacted.

The Governor also announced a $116 million emergency plan in response to this pandemic, with financial assistance being provided to rural hospitals, independent primary care physicians, healthcare workers, training and stimulus for telemedicine, and more. The plan calls for the federal government paying all but $25 million, with the remainder of the funds coming from Arkansas’ Medicare budget.  

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(03/26/20) City Hall screening visitors and employees There are currently no plans to close City Hall at this time, but changes have been made to how City departments are delivering services in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Effective today, March 26, members of the public will not be able to immediately access individual departments at City Hall, 133 Convention Boulevard. Individuals will be screened, both public and employees, upon entering the foyer of City Hall. Employees will continue to assist members of the public, but rather than individuals going directly to a department or office, guests will need to use the call box on the upper floor to call either the city manager’s office or the city clerk’s office. The needs of the individual will be determined, and a representative from the appropriate department will be called to meet with the individual, if needed. In doing so, the City employee and member(s) of the public will maintain a distance of at least six feet.  [Read more...]

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(03/26/20) AHD recommends self home quarantine for certain travelers  Due to high rates of COVID-19 in New York and international locations, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is now recommending self home quarantine for 14 days for all travelers from New York State and all international locations. For more information, including tips about how to self home quarantine, visit the ADH website. The ADH has also urged everyone to maintain a minimum social distance of six feet, as well as frequent and thorough hand washing.  

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(03/25/20) Planning & Development updates in response to COVID-19  

  • Employees and public being screened before entering City Hall offices: Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and the Arkansas Department of Health, all departments and offices at City Hall, including Planning & Development, have implemented a screening process for employees and guests from the public. Public members are asked to use a call box in the City Hall foyer, and an employee with either the city manager’s office or the city clerk’s office. From this, a determination will be made as to if assistance from a particular department is needed, and an employee from that department may be called to attend to the needs. If this is the case, the employee and member(s) of the public will maintain a distance of six feet of separation.

As always, Planning & Development staff are ready to offer assistance and answer questions. If members of the public prefer to seek assistance remotely, staff can assist by phone or email. See our staff directory.

  • Permits and inspections: Permits and Inspections are still required. Permits are available online or by telephone in most cases.
  • Applications: Applications will be handled as usual, but with the constraints imposed by short-staffing.
  • Payments: Credit card payments, such as for permits and applications, are accepted by phone. Call 501-321-6846 for more information.
  • Inspections: Building, electrical, plumbing and HVAC inspections are continuing.
  • Social distancing:  Departmental staff are required to follow the social distancing guidelines while working out in the city. Our City employees are dedicated to serving our community and our residents. These social distancing requirements offer a challenge in providing our personalized service, but abiding by them will allow our department to continue to provide services for the duration of the pandemic.
  • Inspection and Code Enforcement prioritization:  Inspection and code enforcement for vacant lots and vacant structures, as well as imminent hazards to public health and safety, are being prioritized at this time.  Please understand that through this pandemic, the department may not be fully staffed, and staff will have to prioritize accordingly.
  • Board and Commission actions:  Board of Zoning Appeals, Planning Commission and Historic District Commission action will proceed per the conditions of Board of Directors Ordinance No. 6323, authorizing actions of City Manager during the COVID -19 pandemic.

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(03/25/20) Arkansas cases up to 280; Garland County is at 16  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference today, March 25, the total number of confirmed positive cases in Arkansas was updated to 280, up 62 cases from yesterday. The number of cases in Garland County has risen to 16. Of the statewide cases, 13 are children (ages 18 and younger); 173 are adults (19-64); and 94 are older adults (ages 65 and older). There are currently 12 COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized, with four on ventilators. A total of 11 confirmed cases have met the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) criteria to be considered recovered. Also shared at the press conference:

  • In preparation for a possible exhaustion of the state’s healthcare professionals as coronavirus cases continue to rise, the Governor shared that the licensing process for doctors and nurses has been expedited.
  • The Governor also urged the public to abide by the guidance of the ADH to limit indoor gatherings to 10 or fewer people and to maintain a minimum of six feet social distance at all times. Verbiage for an official statewide directive is being drafted to turn this guidance into an official order.
  • There have also been an unprecedented number of unemployment claims in the state, the Governor reported.
  • ADH Director Nate Smith encouraged everyone to take time to reach out by phone, social media or other means to neighbors, friends, family, and particularly older Arkansans who are staying safe in their homes but who might be suffering from loneliness, anxiety and depression.
  • Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Col. Nathaniel Todd shared that the five VA healthcare locations in the state are ready with testing capabilities for any veterans who call, go through the screening process and are determined to be at risk and in need of COVID-19 testing.

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(03/25/20) Arkansas Department of Health announcement about closure of salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors  In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, all barbers, body art establishments, body art schools, cosmetology establishments, massage therapy clinics/spas, and medical spas should close for in-person operations beginning at noon today, March 25. To read more of the ADH directive, go to the following URL: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/Barber_Body_Art_Cosmetology_Massage_Therapy_Medical_Spas_Schools_FINAL.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0V5sBUoDuR7NYATY_3vEDk6gBJ6CD1JhrcgOLA5VOboBmPT4i9Khkgym4 

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(03/25/20) Extension of alcohol taxes and licensing fees  In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the City of Hot Springs has decided to extend the deadline for February alcohol taxes and for business licensing fees. [Read more...]

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(03/25/20) State cases up to 236; important reminders to slow the spread  As of just after 8 a.m. this morning, March 25, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas was 236. The number of confirmed cases in Garland County rose to 11, up from 10 yesterday. There have been 10 reported recoveries in the state, and two deaths. The total number of confirmed cases across the United States continues to rise, and is at 55,238 with more than 800 deaths.

A few important reminders to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus from Ed Davis, Hot Springs Fire chief and member of the local COVID-19 Task Force:

  1. Wash your hands often, as it is the most effective way a person can avoid transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
  2. Don’t touch your face or rub your eyes. Your eyes are an easy point for the virus to enter your body.
  3. Practice social distancing, avoid unnecessary casual contact and keep six feet distance intervals between you and others while in public.

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(03/24/20) Governor urges social distancing as state cases rise to 218  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s press conference today, March 24, 2020, he and members of his task force reported that the number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 218, up from 174 at the time of the previous press conference. There have also been two reported deaths in the past 24 hours, including an individual in their 50’s and another above the age of 80. 

Garland County has an additional confirmed case and is up to a total of 10. 

Among the active statewide cases, there are 11 children, 134 adults (ages 19-64) and 73 older adults (ages 65 and older). There have been 14 hospitalizations with six patients needing ventilators. There have been 10 confirmed cases that have recovered. 

Even with the numbers rising, health officials have told the governor that this is the "calm before the storm," and that Arkansas is still on the front end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nate Smith shared important items regarding COVID-19:

  • Funerals: although we need to honor and remember lost loved ones, funerals can also be a time that the coronavirus can be spread; consider ways that would be less likely to spread COVID-19, such as outdoor ceremonies
  • Smoking risk: smoking is proving to be a significant risk factor for serious illness with COVID-19; now would be a great time to quit smoking; online resources are available to help, including https://www.bewellarkansas.org/quit-tobacco/ 
  • Employers guidance: whereas some employers were under the impression that employees should be tested before being allowed to work, the recommendation is to screen employees on a daily basis for symptoms of COVID-19, and to take temperatures if possible

Social distancing was also reiterated as a crucial element to flattening the curve of infections. Youth, who may not fully understand the risk associated with this pandemic, can not only be effected personally, but can help the spread of the virus if they do not practice social distancing. Although information is not available for exact locations of those who have tested positive, everyone should consider any public space as having the possibility to harbor and spread the virus.

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(03/23/20) Second Updated Press Release from Garland County District Court Garland County District Court will continue to operate its essential court functions. All cases currently scheduled through April 17, 2020, shall be continued effective immediately pursuant the Supreme Court of Arkansas Per Curiam Order issued March 20, 2020. [Read More...]

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(03/23/20) Local authorities brace for rise in COVID-19 cases  The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force met this morning, March 23, 2020, to continue to coordinate efforts in what is anticipated to be a continued rise in coronavirus cases. [Read More...]

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(03/22/20) Total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in state up to 165  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s COVID-19 press conference at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, it was announced that the current confirmed positive test result count in the state had the largest daily jump thus far from 118 yesterday to the current total of 165. Along with this was the largest daily number of tests that were given, with a total of 135 yesterday. As more tests are administered, it is expected that the number of positive results will rise. Of the 165 total, there are a total of 10 children, 93 adults (ages 19-64) and 62 adults (ages 65 and over). 

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(03/22/20) Statewide cases up to 137  According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) update this morning, the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas has risen to 137, up from 118 yesterday. It includes 79 positive test results from the ADH lab, and 58 positive test results from independent labs. Persons under investigation is at 116, and those being monitored because of identified risk is at 517. 

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(03/21/20) Statement from City Manager Bill Burrough regarding COVID-19  Any rumors of an upcoming shut down or shelter-in-place imposed by Hot Springs City management are not true. There have been no discusses to that effect, and that is not a decision that would be made by one person or at the local level. The coronavirus COVID-19 situation has been and will continue to be a fluid one. Should more extreme mitigation efforts be necessary at a future point, Homeland Security has outlined services that are deemed essential, meaning our society will continue to function with the supply chain industry remaining intact so that our grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and so on, will continue to operate. Our City departments of Police, Fire, Public Works, Solid Waste, Water and Wastewater, etc., will also continue, no matter what mitigation measures are taken.

This ever-changing pandemic has brought all of the United States together, the whole world together, to fight and work toward overcoming this unique global challenge. At the local level in Garland County and Hot Springs, I am extremely proud how quickly collaborative efforts have streamlined our response. Judge Darryl Mahoney and I, as well as the task force, have remained in constant contact and continue to work to help secure needed supplies for our hospitals and clinics. Through a relationship with Sigma Supply, we were able to get 850 of the medical-grade face masks, Tyvek suits, plastic aprons, 10,000 sterile swabs and 40 no-touch thermometers. We will continue to support any way we can through our task force.

As of this afternoon, Arkansas has 118 confirmed cases. Garland County remains in the 5-10 cases category. We are far from reaching the peak of the spread, which state health leaders predict could be 5-6 weeks away. Please continue to practice the guidelines of social distancing and handwashing. Stay informed through www.cityhs.net/covid-19, which will be updated with facts about the state and local response.

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(03/21/20) Total of 118 confirmed cases in Arkansas Announced at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s 1:30 p.m. COVID-19 press conference, the total of confirmed cases in the state is up 22 over Friday’s number of 96, for a total of 118. Of this total, nine are children, 32 are senior citizens and 77 are adults, ages 18-64. There have been 13 COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization with seven requiring ICU and four requiring the use of a ventilator. Governor Hutchinson shared that a projection moving forward for Arkansas, based on the pandemic’s effect on other states and areas, is that Arkansas would hit the peak of cases in 6-8 weeks with 1,000 patients at that point possibly needing hospitalization. He and his task force stressed the importance of flattening the curve of this pandemic by practicing social distancing and good self hygiene (hand washing, etc.), screening by businesses and avoiding unnecessary travel. If all of these are given priority by all of us in the state, Arkansas may not have to take the more extreme mitigation measures, such as shelter-in-place, being done in other states.

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(03/20/20) Arkansas confirmed cases up to 96 Announced at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s afternoon COVID-19 press conference, the number of cases confirmed by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has risen to 96. This total includes 58 from ADH Lab positive test results and 38 from independent positive test results. There are now 203 Persons Under Investigation (PUI), and 548 persons being monitored by ADH. On the ADH map of the state showing counties with positive COVID-19 cases, Garland County has been upgraded with 5-9 confirmed cases. To watch the press conference, visit https://youtu.be/hbpIoO42Chc.

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(03/20/20) Arkansas confirmed cases up to 83 According to the 5:30 a.m. update on Friday, March 20, from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state is up to 83. The number of cases was 62 as of the afternoon of March 19. From the confirmed 83 cases, 59 were from ADH Lab positive test results and 24 were from commercial lab positive test results. Persons Under Investigation (PUI) is at 170, and persons being monitored by ADH with daily check-in and guidance because of an identified risk is at 483. Past PUIs with negative test results is at 364. 

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(03/20/20) Issues related to flushing paper towels, wipes, etcWith coronavirus (COVID-19) in Garland County, the Hot Springs Utilities Department would like to remind our homebound residents of the dangers of flushing disinfecting wipes down their commodes. [Read More...]

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(03/19/20) Local call center/hotline and evaluation centers operational The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 call center is available at 501-760-4307, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, as a first line of triage in an effort not to overrun our hospitals. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Proclamation of Emergency issued for Hot Springs With the rapidly evolving scenarios associated with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), City Manager Bill Burrough has issued a Proclamation of Emergency pursuant to State law. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Statement from Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe regarding COVID-19 Since well before the first case of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was announced in our state, Hot Springs leaders were coordinating and planning our response should the pandemic reach our community. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Utility Billing Services opens service window and urges use of alternate payment options The lobby of the City’s Utility Billing Services (UBS) location, 517 Airport Road (Suite C) is closed to customers. Payments and other services are being provided through a service window, and customers are also encouraged to consider using the online payment portal, pay-by-phone, drop-box locations or pay by mail. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Hot Springs Police Department lobby closed due to COVID-19 In the interest of public safety and the health of our employees, the Hot Springs Police Department has decided that due to the recent Coronavirus threat, we have enacted the following temporary measures to help stop the spread of the virus. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Animal Services closing lobby In response to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control relating to social distancing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the lobby of the City of Hot Springs Animal Services will be closed to customers until further notice starting on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Updated Garland County District Court schedule Garland County District Court will continue to operate its essential court functions. All cases through April 3, 2020, shall be continued effective immediately pursuant to the schedule set forth at the end of this press release. [Read More...]

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(03/18/20) Southern Airways policies regarding COVID-19 With the understanding that travel within the national air transportation network is a matter of critical importance to the health and safety of America’s citizens, all change fees, effective today, will be suspended through April 15 on all Southern flights, regardless of fare class or date purchased.* [Read More...]

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(03/17/20) Task force developing drive-thru COVID-19 clinics Preparations are being made for drive-thru clinics for patient evaluations, as well as a local COVID-19 hotline, in Hot Springs and Garland County as a part of unified efforts to locally mitigate the nationwide outbreak. [Read More...]

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(03/13/20) Task force monitoring COVID-19 A task force has been formed in Hot Springs with representatives from the city, county and state, as well as public safety and health officials. [Read More...]

Symptomatic?    

Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center

501-760-4307

(8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

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Drive-thru Evaluation Sites in Garland County

  • Convenient Care Clinic (100 McGowan Court, Hot Springs):  7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
  • Convenient Care Clinic (4419 Hwy 7 North, Hot Springs Village):  8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday
  • Garland County Health Unit (1425 Malvern Avenue, Hot Springs): 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday; call 501-624-3394 to schedule an appointment
  • Healthy Connections (3604 Central Avenue, Hot Springs):  8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday; schedule appointment by calling 888-710-8220; no out-of-pocket cost, but insurance may be billed
  • Healthy Connections (1723 Malvern Avenue, Hot Springs):  8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday; schedule appointment by calling 888-710-8220; no out-of-pocket cost, but insurance may be billed
  • First Care Walk-In Clinic (120 Adcock Road, Garland County):  9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday; 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday
  • Walmart (1601 Albert Pike Road): online evaluation and scheduling at www.DoINeedACOVID19Test.com or call 1-800-635-8611.

HS GC COVID-19 testing sites and hotline flyer Opens in new window

Download a PDF flyer of the testing sites in Garland County to print/display/share.

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ADH Call Center

1-800-803-7847

(8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

1-800-554-5738

(After hours/weekends)

ADH.Coronavirus@arkansas.gov

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Community Service Assistance

Call Arkansas 2-1-1  

2-1-1

2-1-1 is a free telephone service that connects individuals in need to important community services in the state of Arkansas.

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Online Resource Guide

www.hsresourceguide.org

Serving eight counties in the Ouachita Region, the guide lists up-to-date information for an array of services available.

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Unemployed?    

Arkansas Department of Workforce Services Unemployment Hotline

1-844-908-2178

(6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday)

arunemployment.com

Family / Personal Wellbeing  

Child Abuse Hotline

1-844-Save-A-Child

(24/7)

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Mental Health and Addiction Services Support Line

1-844-763-0198

(8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday)

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

(24/7)