Dealing with the spreading virus

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As of Tuesday morning, Carroll County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health. Concerns are growing about the spread of the contagious virus after large spikes in the number of cases in the United States. The World Health Organization has warned that the U.S. could be world’s next COVID-19 hotspot because of the quick acceleration in diagnoses.

As of March 23, the nation had seen 46,481 people test positive for COVID-19 with 593 deaths. In Arkansas, where testing kits have been in short supply until recently, 1,153 people have been tested with 206 positives and 947 negatives. The state’s first death from the virus was reported on Tuesday.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith, speaking at a press conference on Monday, said they are encouraged by the large number of negative results received so far. Five individuals have met the criteria for recovery and the increase of nine that day was the smallest increase seen for several days in Arkansas.

The largest reason for the surge in positives in testing focused on three nursing homes in Central Arkansas. But there was only one additional case related to the nursing homes March 23.

Smith said that it is likely that community transmission is occurring in the state. The Arkansas Department of Health is seeing more cases not related to out-of-state travel or known exposure to someone with COVID-19.

In about a third of the world, people have been asked to practice self-quarantine and social distancing. But as recently as March 21, groups of people could be seen hanging out on outdoor decks in Eureka Springs without maintaining the recommended six-foot distance.

The parking lot at Hart’s was nearly full, about half the shops downtown were open.

Dr. John House, Chair of the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission, has recommended that everyone practice social distancing.

“The CDC has lots of good information on their website about that,” House said. “Self-quarantine is different. It’s for those who have the virus or who have been exposed. Certainly, anyone who has the virus should stay home and prevent the disease spreading.”

Many people who are older with underlying health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and lung problems are already choosing to self-quarantine.

Social distancing can be difficult where people are accustomed to dining out frequently, attending parades and being involved in community gatherings. Many people are finding it challenging to stay home during an uncertain time. There could be a false sense of security now as no COVID cases have been confirmed in the county.

Dr. Smith said that, in theory, if everyone sheltered transmission could be stopped in 14 days. But he said that, obviously, is not possible. It can spread within a home if one member has it, and people need to get out to get food and other supplies.

“Shutdown or shelter-in-place would have to be sustained for a much longer period of time than fourteen days,” Smith said.

There is concern across the country about an unprecedent demand for healthcare services at the same time there is a shortage of Personal Protection Equipment, respirators and ventilators. At the news conference Monday, it was revealed that the state has been outbid by other states when trying to obtain PPE. Governors and some senators have urged President Trump to make use of the provisions of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to issue purchase orders for N95 respiratory masks and other medical supplies in short supply.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted that individual states don’t have the buying power to generate a swift and massive industrial response. Rubio said it would require a federal effort to mobilize the private sector action on the scale and pace required.

However, March 22 Trump said the threat of nationalizing U.S. business sent tremors through the business community and he is reluctant to use his power under the DPA.

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe said supplies of PPE are low across the state.

“I have been told we have a little PPE, but it won’t last long,” Bledsoe said. “This is a big deal and we are taking it very seriously. We want the provider community to know we are doing everything we can to get the PPE for our state that we need.”

Bledsoe expressed gratitude for the “courageous and sacrificial services” of the state’s healthcare workers.

Outdoor screening for COVID-19 is now available at the Eureka Springs Family Clinic. Only people who think they may have been exposed or who have symptoms should seek the drive-through screening that is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hospitals in the county have asked that people who suspect they have COVID-19 call ahead so arrangements can be made for testing that minimizes exposing healthcare workers.

The widespread closure of businesses and declining tax revenues mean Arkansas is facing a $353 million shortfall in state funding, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday, and there will need to be “serious belt tightening” at all state agencies with the exception of those on the front lines.

The governor has called for a special session of the Arkansas Legislature to address the budget crisis.

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