Garland County averaged 30 new COVID-19 cases reported daily from July 19 – 26, with a total of 210 new cases for the week, according to Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby at the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force virtual meeting on July 27.
“The numbers don’t look good,” said Shelby. “We are certainly on a major upward trend.”
Testing in the county hit an all-time high at almost 2,000 tests samples collected during the week, but with 210 new positives, the percentage of positive cases also hit a record high at 10.6%. Active cases rose from 125 on July 20 to 215 on July 26. There are an additional 11 individuals the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is monitoring for possible exposure. Deaths have remained at five for the county.
Shelby said that the active cases are still distributed throughout the county. Royal has 13 confirmed cases, which is up by five from the previous week. All other rural communities have fewer than 10. He credited the Garland County portion of Hot Springs Village for continuing to show low numbers, attributing that populated area’s lack of spread to the efforts being taken by individuals there.
The Hispanic community within Garland County had another rise in cases, from 31 to 41, or from 16% of to 18% of the county’s cases.
In terms of the trend in age groups, the percentage of positives from those under 25 years of age has increased from 25% to 29% of the area cases. Of the 226 current active/monitoring case total, there are 33 between the ages of 6 and 18, or our school-age youth. “We even have eight cases in children 5 years of age and younger,” added Shelby.
Together, National Park Medical Center (NPMC) and CHI St. Vincent (CHI) have had a slight decrease in COVID-19 patients. Both hospitals continue to provide a safe, sterile environment for all COVID and non-COVID patients, employees and visitors. NPMC is updating its visitation policy to restrict access to the intensive care unit (ICU). CHI is amending its visitation policy for the emergency room waiting room in that if there are patients waiting in the lobby, each visitor will be asked to wait in their vehicle or outside the facility for a phone call to join their loved one once the patient is in an examination room. Both hospitals reported having high volumes of critical care patients, but the increase is not necessarily related to the pandemic.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all our healthcare facilities in Hot Springs,” said Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney. “They had enough to do before this pandemic hit. It’s got to be very unnerving and emotionally draining. I certainly appreciate all they continue to do on the frontline of this issue, and I know the people in our community do too.”
Mahoney also shared that he appreciates how the community in Hot Springs and Garland County seems to be abiding by the face mask mandate, having seen a majority of people downtown and in big-box stores wearing masks. Hot Springs Police Chief Chris Chapmond affirmed the judge’s account, and added that those walking downtown, if not wearing a mask, appeared to be carrying one with them and were abiding by social distancing guidelines.
The Garland County Health Unit, 501-624-3394, collected 138 COVID-19 test samples during the past week. They are providing Hispanic patients with information about the coronavirus in Spanish, which is also available online at https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-for-spanish-speaking-arkansans. For individuals who come for COVID-19 testing, health unit representatives provide an informational flyer with three steps the individuals should take while awaiting the test results – stay at home and monitor their health, think about people they have recently been around and answer their phone when the health department calls with the results.
An update for those in isolation was recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “For most persons with COVID-19 illness, isolation and precautions can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms,” according to CDC.gov. “For persons who never develop symptoms, isolation and other precautions can be discontinued 10 days after the date of their first positive…[COVID-19] test.”
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) application for individuals and families who have suffered loss of employment as a result of COVID-19 is online at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. Applicants can choose from assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. To donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, visit www.bit.ly/UWO-COVID, call 501-623-2505 or send a check by mail at 233 Hobson Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913. “There were people at our office at 8 a.m. this morning, so there is no shortage of people in our community who need assistance,” said Sarah Fowler, UWO executive director.