Low COVID-19 Testing Due to Weather Skews Statistics


February 24, 2021 – The week of Feb. 14-22 had the lowest total of COVID-19 test results recorded for Garland County since August due to the winter weather, but Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby is still pleased by the continued downward trajectory of the county’s COVID statistics.

Shelby shared with the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force at the Feb. 22 virtual meeting that there were 1,203 COVID tests completed last week, from which there were 168 new cases reported, or an average of 24 new cases per day. Although the new case counts are the lowest since the first part of October, the rate of positivity rose from the previous week’s 11.1% to 14%, which Shelby attributed to a majority of last week’s testing taking place in the hospitals for those who are experiencing symptoms. The number of active cases in the county dropped to 291 at the time of the meeting from 515 at the same time the previous week.

There were six COVID-related deaths reported in Garland County last week, which is the lowest weekly total since mid-December.

There were also significant decreases in the number of active cases distributed throughout the county, with Hot Springs Village falling from 49 to 28, Royal from 24 to 18, Pearcy from 16 to six, Lonsdale from 10 to seven and Mountain Pine from 10 to seven.

Shelby said he is hopeful that testing ramps back up this week, which is important so we can get a clearer picture of how much virus we still have in our area.

Vaccination clinics that were postponed last week due to winter weather have been re-scheduled this week for those who have pre-registered online. The statewide vaccine distribution continues with Phase 1-A groups – healthcare, long-term care facilities and first responders – and the start of Phase 1-B – education workers and those 65 and older. For links to register for COVID-19 vaccination waiting lists and for vaccine updates in Garland County, visit www.cityhs.net/vaccine. For statewide vaccine updates, visit https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-vaccination-plan. As the vaccination distribution progresses, it is important to remember that the virus mitigation efforts of wearing a face mask, socially distancing and washing of hands needs to continue.

Shelby shared updated quarantine guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health for individuals who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

·         Are fully vaccinated (i.e., at least two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose  series)

·         Are within three months following receipt of the last dose in the series

·         Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

Persons who do not meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine requirements after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center, which has been operated by volunteers since early on in the pandemic, has been discontinued as call volumes have diminished in recent weeks. For updates and information relating to COVID-19 in Hot Springs and Garland County, visit www.cityhs.net/covid-19.

The Garland County Health Unit continues to provide COVID-19 tests. Those wishing to be tested are advised to call ahead to schedule an appointment at 501-624-3394. When arriving for an appointment for COVID testing, individuals should park their vehicle in a parking space reserved by a numbered cone, stay inside their vehicle and call to inform the representatives which number is indicated on the cone.  The local health units do not currently have the COVID vaccine available, but are still providing the 2020 flu vaccination on a walk-in basis to those who would like to receive it. The health unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open, weather permitting, 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 application for COVID-19 assistance for area families and individuals affected by the pandemic online 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.