Although the number of active COVID-19 cases in White County has dropped by more than half over the last month, the county was still ninth among the counties in the state Friday afternoon, according to the Arkansas Department of Health figures.
The county was at 857 active cases Jan. 8, and health department numbers showed it at 369 Friday afternoon. The county also has reached 100 COVID-19-related deaths, with 82 of those confirmed.
The total number of cases was at 6,964, with 6,494 recoveries. The number of tests that have been given in the county was 52,993, with 13 percent being positive.
If a spike in cases occurs from Super Bowl watch parties last Sunday, Department of Health Public Information Director Gavin Lesnick said it’s his understanding is that “we will probably see that in the next week or so.”
“It can be about two weeks from the event to show up, so we are watching it,” Lesnick said. “We are hopeful that didn’t happen, that we have been doing this long enough and we saw how dire things got with the hospitalizations around Christmas that that really underscored the importance of following the precautions, and we’re hopeful people heeded that advice during the Super Bowl and will continue to follow it going forward.
“I think everybody would love it here if we don’t see a bump, but we will watch it closely.”
Seeing hospitalizations come down “significantly” has been “welcome news,” Lesnick said.
“That gives us a little bit more flexibility to handle patients,” he said. “I think we had over 1,300 at one point at the peak of things and we are down into the lower 700s now. So, it is substantially lower than it was, but it does come with a warning that we know very well it could go back up.
“We have to follow those precautions to prevent that from happening because if we let our guard down and we aren’t vigilant, we will be right back in that same situation.”
The latest COVID-19 education report from the department shows the Searcy School District on Thursday with 20 active cases, Riverview with 12 and Beebe and Rose Bud with 5 (the cutoff for schools making the list). Harding University has 16 active cases.
Among nursing homes in the county, The Crossing at Riverside in Searcy had 21 active residents cases and three active staff as of Feb. 8 110 actives and The Springs of Searcy had five active residents and seven active staff. The Oakdale Nursing Facility in Judsonia had one active resident and 11 active staff.
Lesnick said it has been a “good sign” that nursing home residents who didn’t want to take a COVID-19 vaccine at first are being more receptive to it.
“I think some people were a little hesitant in the early going and as it it has become more clear that lots of people have gotten these vaccines and they are safe, there are more people willing to do it too, and that’s really good and that’s really important because we know they are good and we know they are effective,” he said. “The more people that get vaccinated, the better we are all.
“The goal was to have at least the first clinic at all of the nursing homes in the state in January, and that did happen. Every nursing home was offered a clinic and they got first doses. The way it works with the contractors is that they make three visits. The first one is for the first doses. The second one is for the second doses for everybody that got the first doses three or four weeks earlier, but then they also offer it again to people that didn’t take it the first time.”
Lesnick said the state also is “still in the thick” of vaccinating “the first two groups of the 1B [phase of vaccine distribution], and specifically the 70-plus population.”
“That is where they are really trying to focus on, getting more of that population vaccinated before moving to the other subgroups in 1B,” he said. “The vaccine continues to be distributed to every county in the state. We are seeing the pharmacies administer it pretty quickly once they have it in hand. It seems to be going pretty well.”
Lesnick said The New York Times has a tracker that has the percent of the population that has been vaccinated, first doses and second doses, and “Arkansas compares pretty favorably with other states.”
“I think things are going well, but, of course, we are looking for anything we can do to make it more efficient overall,” he said. “Above all, we want to see our allocation [of the vaccine] increase because that’s still the rate limiting factor is the amount of vaccine we have.”
The New York Times reported Friday that as of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said “about 34.7 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including about 11.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated.” The newspaper had Arkansas listed as having 11 percent of the state getting one shot; 3.7 percent getting two shots; 593,775 vaccine doses delivered to Arkansas; 430,803 shots given and 73 percent of doses used.
Lesnick said over the past few weeks, the state’s doses of the Moderna vaccine has gone up a few thousand each week.
“I think this coming week we are going to be at 28,000 and change of Moderna doses,” he said. “Pfizer has been pretty steady at 18,525 for a few weeks. So the expectation is that as production ramps up, those amounts will go up, and if get an additional vaccine authorized – the Johnson and Johnson one is seeking authorization – that would be a whole other flow of vaccine that would come into the state.”
Lesnick said a partnership with the Federal Retail Program, “Walmarts around the state will be giving the vaccines. That will be in addition to those weekly allocations, so that will be a good addition to our vaccine effort.”
Lesnick said whenever it is time to move on to the other groups in 1B and when vaccines advance to the 1C group, “those will be the big announcements, but no determination has been made when that is definitely going to happen.”