After eight weeks of declining active cases in Garland County, the number rose to 25 as of Monday, March 21, an increase of four from a week prior.
The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force is meeting monthly and did not convene this week, but Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby provided his weekly COVID-19 statistic update electronically to the group. He explained that for the week of March 13 – 20, the statistics were “somewhat of a mixed bag.” He also said there is evidence that the Arkansas Department of Health is still adding old reports.
There were 134 new cases added last week, or an average of 19.1 cases per day, down from the previous week’s 36.1 daily average. There were 1,258 test results, up from the previous week’s 976. The positivity rate improved from 26% and 17.5% the past two weeks to 10.3%. Shelby said he was saddened to report a new milestone with seven recorded deaths, bringing the county’s total to 500.
Looking ahead, Shelby said there is concern that there the area may be starting to see an uptick in cases due to the BA.2 sub-variant of the omicron virus. It is accounting for up to 25% of the new cases in the United States and appears to be 30-50% more transmissible than the original omicron.
“Fortunately, our current vaccines are effective against it, and probably people who have been infected also have some immunity,” said Shelby. “The hope is that this will just be an uptick and not a surge. But, based on what is happening in Western Europe, we should expect these things here over the next weeks and months.”
Shelby said he hopes “with warmer weather and the end of the school year, this won’t be a huge issue, but does merit close observation.”