‘Hyper Vigilance’ Needed Next Few Weeks to Maintain Positive Trend


May 12, 2020 – With only five active COVID-19 cases and the rate of positive test results this past week falling to just .2%, the early and robust testing in Garland County seem to be paying off according to Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby.

“It is really pretty amazing to look at the numbers in Garland County for May 3 through May 10,” said Shelby. “There was still robust testing numbers, with a total of 623 tests, and just one positive.”

Of the 119 total confirmed cases in the county, 113 have recovered and one individual passed away from the virus, meaning there are only five active cases.

But Shelby said we “need to keep doing what we have been doing and be hyper-vigilant over the next couple of weeks and moving forward as businesses, restaurants and the casino begin reopening, particularly as more visitors from outside the county will be traveling into our area.”

He also noted that he has fielded questions about the statewide directives from the Governor’s Office and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Since the state, as with all others in the U.S., is under a public health emergency, directives from the Governor and ADH are laws and can be enforced. It is important to remember that the difference between guidance and a directive is that guidance means “should do,” while directive means “must do,” explained Fire Chief Ed Davis.

Hot Springs Police Department Captain Billy Hrvatin confirmed that the police station has received calls about establishments not following state directives. The department responds by speaking with the possible offender, and citations can be given as needed. A few area restaurants were contacted over the weekend for opening ahead of directed May 11 Phase One initiation date.

The directives being put into place by the Governor’s office in coordination with ADH can be found by clicking on the COVID-19 banner on the ADH website – healthy.arkansas.gov.

The area COVID-19 Call Center (501-760-4307) reported a caller asking about summer camps, which were cancelled by a directive on April 17, 2020. This directive will be re-evaluated on May 31, but it states that COVID-19 community spread likely to continue for some time and that “a return to normal activities may not occur until late summer or beyond.”

Also, Shelby mentioned the directives regarding recreational pools, common areas and fitness centers, and said they also pertain to apartment complexes and property owner associations.

The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) is continuing to accept applications from individuals and families who are requesting assistance if they have suffered loss of employment of income as a result of COVID-19. The application is available at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application, and applicants can choose for assistance in several categories, including food, rent, utility bills, medical/prescription costs and costs for gas or public transportation. Applications will be reviewed weekly, and payment of approved funds will go directly to pay the holder of the bill(s) or expense(s).

For those with approved applications for food, between 40-50 food boxes are being distributed weekly by the UWO in coordination with Project HOPE Food Bank and Sheep Dog Impact Assistance of Central Arkansas.

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.

Public health officials continue to stress the importance of washing hands often, keeping social distance, staying home when sick and disinfecting surfaces often. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.