Garland County’s COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations remain high as other statistics continue to show signs of a waning omicron surge.
Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby provided his weekly COVID-19 statistic update for the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force for the week of Jan. 23 – 30. There were 753 new cases from the past week, or 107.6 new cases per day, compared to the previous weeks’ 144.4 and 191.1 daily average of new cases per day. The number of tests reported was down from the previous week’s, at 2,203. The positivity rate for the county rose for the second straight week to another record high of 34.2%. Active cases fell by 225 from the previous week to 1,454, at the time of the meeting Monday morning, Jan. 31. Garland County reported three additional COVID-related deaths, bringing the cumulative pandemic total to 440.
Hospital representatives from CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported a total of 92 COVID-19 patients, up from 80 at the time of last week's meeting. There was a total of 22 COVID patients in intensive care, with 19 requiring ventilation. A hospital representative said although the community COVID statistics are coming down, the hospitals are still seeing a lot of volume. They wanted to encourage everyone to consult their primary care physician (PCP), an urgent care facility and/or the local health unit for non-emergency medical concerns. The hospital emergency departments (ERs) should be utilized for emergencies, or critical health concerns.
Although reporting was ongoing following the weekend, school districts shared rapidly decreasing case numbers. There were approximately 143 total active student and staff cases reported from the county's seven public school districts at the time of the meeting, which was down from the previous Monday’s total of 297.
Cutter-Morning Star School District reported eight student cases – three in the elementary and five in the high school – and two staff cases. There was a total of 19 students in quarantine.
Fountain Lake School District reported seven student cases and no staff cases. There was a total of 54 students in quarantine, 44 from elementary classrooms that had to quarantine.
Hot Springs School District reported 20 student cases and 10 staff cases. The district continues to see their numbers decrease, but they are not back to the low numbers from before Christmas break.
Jessieville School District reported significantly better numbers with 13 student cases and three staff cases. There were an additional 25 students and three staff members in quarantine.
Lakeside School District reported 11 student cases and three staff cases. As of Friday, the district recorded a 70% decrease in cases from the latest peak.
Lake Hamilton School District also reported a significant drop with around 50% fewer active and new cases last week than the week before. The district reported 18 student cases and five staff cases.
Mountain Pine School District reported four active student cases and three positive staff cases, as of the end of last week, as well as 25 in quarantine.
Both the City of Hot Springs and Garland County government offices again reported decreasing numbers of staff being out with COVID. LifeNet reported having seven staff out at the time of the meeting.
The Garland County Health Unit continues to administer the influenza (flu) vaccine, as well as the following COVID vaccines: pediatric (ages 5 – 18) and adult-dose Pfizer, the initial and booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and booster doses for ages 16-17. No appointments are needed for these vaccines or boosters.
The unit conducted 34 COVID tests last week. Free COVID testing until 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and until noon on Fridays, but testing is now done by appointment only by calling 501-624-3394.
The health unit has also been distributing the state-ordered COVID-19 home test kits to the public. They have given out almost more than 45,000 since Jan. 10, and still had supplies available at the time of the meeting.
The health unit continues to offer its full range of health services inside its facility. Family planning appointments are now being offered four days a week – Monday through Thursday. Along with requiring a face mask to enter, the health unit also has a machine that takes people’s temperatures. Those with elevated temperatures are not allowed to enter. The health unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday – Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The United Way of the Ouachitas continues to have an online application for COVID-19 assistance for area families and individuals affected by the pandemic at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. To donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, visit www.bit.ly/UWO-COVID, call 501-623-2505 or send a check by mail at 233 Hobson Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913.