How easy can it be to catch Covid-19? That may be a lot more apparent during the next two weeks as the area sees a possible impact from crowds in downtown Eureka Springs and on nearby rivers and lakes during Labor Day weekend.
Under Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s mandates, people not in the same family group who can’t practice social distancing of at least six feet while indoors are required to wear a mask. On Labor Day weekend there were large groups of people, especially young people, who didn’t appear to be part of a family group and were not wearing masks.
Arkansas was one of seven states where particular caution was urged against big crowds during the weekend because of the high rate of positive tests.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked Americans to prevent a surge of Covid-19 cases such as those seen after Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends by wearing masks, practice social distancing, and avoiding crowds.
The warning came a day before Arkansas saw a record number of people testing positive for the virus, 1,094, with 12 deaths. There were a large number of new cases in students from the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, which recently started the fall semester with most classes online and requirements that students wear masks indoors.
Nearly 28,000 students reported a total of 639 active cases Sept. 7. Active cases are people who have tested positive and are supposed quarantine for two weeks. But with many students showing no symptoms there was concern that not all of those students were staying home alone. And, not every student who had been tested had yet been notified of results.
There were reports that, in part because of police enforcement of social distancing, masks and limits of occupancy at bars and restaurants on Fayetteville’s Dickson Street, a number of UofA students came to Eureka Springs.
At least one UofA student from Eureka Springs was sent home last week after testing positive for Covid-19.
Chinese research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has indicated it is rare for people with no symptoms to spread the disease. But the flip side of that is people can spread the disease before they even have symptoms, and someone who has no symptoms initially can later develop severe health challenges.
There have been Covid-19 positive cases in Eureka Springs recently. The Rockin’ Pig Saloon closed down temporarily in late August after an employee tested positive.
A Facebook post by the owner and management of the Rockin’ Pig posted in early September said they immediately contacted the Arkansas Department of Health to let them know of the positive test and get input in developing a plan for moving forward.
“We also provided the necessary information for the Department to initiate the contact-tracing process,” the post said. “We promptly advised all of our employees of their colleague’s positive test, that testing was available at no charge to them, and that we recommended each of them be tested. There is no evidence that our new employee contracted the virus at the restaurant.
“While the Department did not require us to close for business, we voluntarily kept the restaurant closed out of an abundance of caution. We spent that evening and all of the following day thoroughly cleaning our entire facility, following the Department’s guidelines. We will remain in close communication with the Department and look forward to reopening soon, with the health and safety of our employees and customers remaining our top priority.”
Recently an employee of the ECHO Thrift store, which helps fund the free ECHO medical clinic, tested positive for Covid-19. Suzie Bell, co-founder of the ECHO medical clinic, said the thrift store employee tested positive on August 29. A relative of another employee tested positive, and both quarantined.
Bell said they closed the thrift store for two days for deep cleaning, and it has now re-opened. However, two employees who refused to be tested are not being allowed to come back to work until they have a negative test result.
“It is spreading in our community,” Bell said. “We have a schoolteacher from Berryville who is in intensive care from Covid-19. That’s horrible. He is a young man. We are praying for him.”
Bell said it was “absolutely predictable” that Covid-19 would start spreading widely in Eureka Springs and Carroll County because of the combination of opening schools, and people who refuse to mask and socially distance either because they believe it infringes on their rights or believe in one of the Covid-19 conspiracy theories.