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☷ Hot Springs Arkansas - HS GC COVID Task Force Garland County in  a good place with COVID but rising cases possible

☷ Hot Springs Arkansas - HS GC COVID Task Force Garland County in a good place with COVID but rising cases possible

Hot Springs , state Arkansas
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   Garland County’s COVID statistics have dropped down to levels not seen in almost two years , according to County Health Officer Dr . Gene Shelby , but he thinks it is unlikely the pandemic has reached its end .
   “There are some comparisons with the COVID we have now to the flu , in terms of the amount of disease it’s causing , but one difference is that the omicron variant is much more contagious than seasonal flu . I don’t think COVID is finished with us , ” Shelby shared with the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID - 19 Task Force at the April 11 virtual meeting . “We have to keep an eye on it because it’ll raise its head on us before it’s done . But , again , I don’t want to take away from where we are now . I think we are at a good place . ”
   Shelby’s area COVID statistic update for the week of April 3 – 10 included 11 new cases , or an average of 1 . 6 cases per day , down from the previous weeks’ daily averages of three , 21 and 19 . With 338 recorded tests , the positivity rate dropped to 3 . 3% . The number of active cases was 29 at the time of the meeting , which was the lowest it has been for the past six weeks . There were two COVID - related deaths recorded , bringing the cumulative total to 508 , but Shelby said these two were likely from weeks ago .
   Shelby admitted that it is hard to predict what direction the pandemic will go moving forward . The BA - 2 sub - variant of omicron is highly contagious , and larger cities and parts of Europe are experiencing spikes in cases . He said we could see similar spikes here , but there will be less indoor exposure as we move into spring and summer . Another positive is that many people either have been vaccinated or have natural immunity from previously having COVID .
   Hospital representatives from CHI St . Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported a total of three active COVID patients , one of which is in intensive care . There was an additional patient who is beyond the 20 - day mark since their diagnosis , thus not requiring COVID isolation . Both hospitals are continuing their mask requirements for the time being .
   There were no active student or staff cases reported from any of the county’s public school districts .
   National Park College reported having two active cases on campus , but one was scheduled to come out of isolation on Tuesday .
   Bo Robertson shared that Kathy Packard , of The Oaklawn Center on Aging , was the recipient of the FEMA Region 6 Community Preparedness Award for her excellence in COVID - 19 for everything she did to assist in the successful execution of the mass - vaccination clinics at the fairgrounds . Robertson , of the Garland County Department of Emergency Management , and Ty Farris , of the Hot Springs Fire Department , along with the help of Packard , developed a pattern for the vaccination clinics that the whole state could follow , according to Judge Darryl Mahoney .
   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 . On March 29 , the health unit was notified it could begin administering a second COVID booster for those 50 - years and older and for those who are immunocompromised , and the unit has seen an uptick in those coming for boosters . There are still vaccine incentives available , including either a $20 Arkansas Game and Fish certificate for fishing/hunting licenses or a $20 lottery ticket , for individuals who have not yet received an incentive .   
   The unit conducted five COVID tests since the last task force meeting a month ago . 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 is still distributing the state - ordered COVID - 19 home test kits to the public .
   The health unit continues to offer its full range of health services inside its facility . Among the services is counseling , testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases ( STDs ) . The health unit noted an increase of STD cases in the community . Individuals requiring STD testing should call for an appointment .
   Starting on May 1 and running through Aug . 31 , the health unit will have available Farmers Market benefits available for certain WIC participants .
   Family planning appointments are offered four days a week – Monday through Thursday . Face masks are now optional in the health unit , which 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 .
   For continued COVID - 19 updates . . .
   

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