Garland County’s COVID-19 statistics continued to improve for the week of Feb. 6 – 13, with the positivity rate and active case count both dropping around 50% from the previous week.
Despite these advances, County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby asked the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force at the Feb. 14 virtual meeting to continue to promote vigilance.
“We’ve got a lot of good things going for us, and I think we just have to keep doing what we are doing, realizing still the virus is still in the community and people are still dying from it almost on a daily basis in Garland County. We can’t forget that,” said Shelby. “We are still going to have to be careful. It is important for people who do test positive to isolate to try to prevent the spread. Even though we are down, there were still 278 new people who were diagnosed in Garland County with COVID last week.”
Shelby’s weekly COVID statistic report for the county included the 278 new cases, or an average of 39.7 per day, which is the lowest weekly total in five weeks. The positivity rate of 19.3% was the lowest it has been in six weeks. Active cases fell from 811 the previous week to 410, at the time of the meeting. There were nine reported COVID-19 deaths last week.
Shelby compared last week’s statistics to the same week a year ago and found they were interestingly similar. In the second week in February 2021, there were 308 new cases and 515 active cases. By April 2021, the county was down to around 10 new cases per week with a very low active case count. Shelby said he hopes we continue on that trend, while also hoping another variant does not dramatically change things like the delta variant did last summer.
Hospital representatives from CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported a total of 67 COVID-19 patients, a decrease from the 75 patients at the time of last week's meeting. There was a total of 13 COVID patients in intensive care, down from 20 last week, with 12 requiring ventilation. Of the 67 COVID patients being treated, 18 were beyond the 20-day mark since their diagnosis and are no longer in COVID isolation.
School districts again reported dramatically lower numbers of COVID cases, with a total of 15 cases reported from the county’s seven public school districts.
Cutter-Morning Star School District reported no cases.
Fountain Lake School District reported no cases.
Hot Springs School District reported two student cases and one staff case.
Jessieville School District reported three student cases and two staff cases.
Lakeside School District reported one student case and no staff case. The district repealed its mask resolution on Feb. 10, so masks are no longer required.
Lake Hamilton School District reported two student cases and one staff case.
Mountain Pine School District reported one student case and two staff cases.
National Park College was pleased to report active cases have dropped below 20 cases, with a total of 14 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 18 COVID tests last week. Free COVID testing is available 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 also gave out 2,880 of the state-ordered COVID-19 home test kits to the public last week.
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 health unit will be closed on Monday, Feb. 21, in observance of President’s Day.
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.
The task force will not meet on Feb. 21, and will resume a bi-weekly meeting schedule on Feb. 28.