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. Following is the updated list of testing sites:
- Garland County Health Unit (1425 Malvern Avenue, Hot Springs): 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday; appointments recommended by calling 501-624-3394; no out-of-pocket cost, but insurance may be billed
- 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
- Walmart (1601 Albert Pike Road, Hot Springs): pre-screening at www.DoINeedaCOVID19Test.com, and appointments made from 7-9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; no out-of-pocket cost, but insurance may be billed
- 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
- Lakeside Family Medicine (124 Hollywood Avenue, Hot Springs): 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday
- 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
- Fountain Lake Family Medicine (4517 Park Avenue): 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday
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.
Both City Manager Bill Burrough and County Judge Darryl Mahoney received phone calls throughout the weekend relating to complaints of the public and restaurants not abiding by the guidelines and directives. Downtown Hot Springs did experience an increase in foot traffic, and Burrough said it’s important to remember that family members walking outside are not required to wear face masks or socially distance. Mahoney, along with other task force representatives, is readying for possible increases in cases as more businesses reopen and as testing numbers continues to increase. “COVID-19 is not going away. We’re not going to eradicate it, but we’re going to have to learn to live with it,” he said. “The guidelines are very difficult to police, and it is a personal obligation we all have to follow them.”
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.
CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center have updated their visitation policies to allow for one visitor per patient. More information is available on the hospitals’ websites. They are also continuing to schedule elective procedures and surgeries as the pre-procedure testing continues to run smoothly.
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, and applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. The UWO is also distributing food boxes weekly in coordination with Project HOPE Food Bank.
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.