Local Authorities Bracing for Rise in COVID-19 Cases

March 23, 2020 – The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force met this morning, March 23, 2020, to continue to coordinate efforts in what is anticipated to be a continued rise in coronavirus cases.

National authorities agree that the number of cases will continue to rise this week, and the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a top priority to help keep medical staff healthy during this pandemic. Monitoring the current supply and obtaining additional PPE was a key topic among the group of local government officials, first responders and healthcare providers at the task force meeting. Efforts are continuing to obtain PPE from the state and private entities by Garland County Emergency Management Director Bo Robertson, City Manager Bill Burrough, Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney and others. This past weekend, a substantial supply of PPE was acquired for local efforts, including 850 of the medical-grade face masks, Tyvek suits, plastic aprons, 10,000 sterile swabs and 40 no-touch thermometers.

The group also urged everyone to continue to share the critical importance of handwashing and social distancing. Fire Chief Ed Davis said that throughout the Hot Spring Fire Department frequent handwashing has been mandated as it is one of the most effective ways to keep from spreading the coronavirus. “Handwashing is the most effective way we can keep this virus from spreading,” Dr. Doug Ross, president of CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, added in agreement.

Similarly, the group heeded the importance of following the social distancing guidelines, as well as businesses and organizations screening employees when possible and for those experiencing symptoms to stay at home.

Both the Garland County Sheriff’s Office and the Hot Springs Police Department shared they have experienced an increase in domestic violence and personal wellbeing calls. Hot Springs Police Chief Jason Stachey said they are going to push out tips and reminders relating to Cool Down Hot Springs, the campaign that launched last August to promote peaceful resolutions to disagreements. “It is good, imperative in fact, for people to keep social distance. In doing so, many people get to feeling cooped up at home, and during these stressful times, it is no surprise that tensions may arise within the home. I encourage everyone to keep cool heads, to go outdoors when possible and to allow time to let any anger dissolve,” said Stachey. “Please visit www.cityhs.net/cool-down-hs for more tips and information on keeping calm and finding compromise in conflict situations.”

Robertson reported that the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center, which was established last week, has been receiving a steady stream of phone calls. The call center is available at 501-760-4307, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, as a first line of triage in an effort not to overrun our hospitals. “They are doing a tremendous job of being our first line to respond to questions and concerns from our local residents who may be experiencing symptoms,” he said. When callers meet criteria for being at risk for having the virus, they are encouraged to contact their primary care provider or, if they do not have one, they are directed to one of the county’s evaluation centers.

Sarah Fowler of the United Way of the Ouachitas shared that her offices have also been receiving more calls since the onset of the coronavirus. She said that she and others are thankful for the launch of Arkansas 2-1-1, which is a free telephone service that connects individuals in need to important community services throughout the state. The 2-1-1 call center serves all of Arkansas with access to community resources every day of the year. Call 2-1-1 or 866-489-6983, or text your zip code to 898211. Fowler and her staff are also encouraging use of Charity Tracker (www.unitedwayouachitas.org/charity-tracker) and the Local Resource Guide (www.unitedwayouachitas.org/resource-guide).

For more information about the COVID-19 coronavirus, visit www.cityhs.net/covid-19https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus  or  www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.