Three county deaths last week, new cases are down

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Three more people from Carroll County died of Covid-19 in the week between Sept. 6 and Sept. 13, bringing the county’s total to 64. It was the second week in a row for three Covid deaths in the county. New cases dipped from 132 to 93, reflecting a downward trend that mirrors the trend for Arkansas.

According to The New York Times Covid data tracker, new infections in Carroll County are down 44 percent in the past two weeks.

The slight downward trends are happening even as schools have reopened for in-person instruction with masks being required in Eureka Springs. Schools have been called the new meatpacking plants for the spread of Covid-19 as early on the plants had a high level of infections. As of Sept. 13, there have been 14, 736 new cases of Covid in students and staff in Arkansas schools.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said the number of school districts where the entire population has the highest rates of infections was at an all-time high for the previous two weeks. School district-level information, along with local-level data on infection and vaccination rates, can be found on ACHI’s Covid-19 in Arkansas web page at achi.net/covid19.

“We continue to see more communities exceeding one percent of their population newly infected with Covid-19,” ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said. “These numbers reflect the risk in the communities from which students, teachers, and staff come each day. We must do more to protect our children from the Delta variant. Everyone who is still unprotected should get vaccinated as soon as possible, bearing in mind that people who are too young for vaccines are relying on the rest of us to keep them safe. I also urge school boards that have rejected mask requirements to rethink that position, and I urge parents to support their local school boards.”

Eureka Springs appears to be benefiting from high vaccination rates and a school district that is requiring masks. Megan Wolfinbarger, school nurse for the Eureka Springs Schools, said there were no new cases the week between Sept. 6-13.

“This past week was one of the slower weeks for Covid since school started,” she said. “Our mask mandate and six-foot distance has helped a lot with our quarantined students. I think the Carroll County Fair the last week of August resulted in some cases. We are doing better since then with the large number of students 12 and up and staff vaccinated.”

Eureka Springs Hospital community liaison Catherine Pappas said their regular shot clinic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays saw good numbers on Sept. 10. Seven people got their first shot, 17 got a second shot and 12 received booster shots. Pappas was particularly pleased with the second shots.

“A lot of people were getting the first vaccine and then we wouldn’t see them again,” Pappas said. “Now I’m getting a lot of calls on the second vaccine and the booster. People are traveling and they know that a booster is going to help them. The hospital is still giving both Pfizer and Moderna shots.”

Currently 90.4 percent of hospitalizations are in people who are unvaccinated, and 87.8 percent of deaths in the state have been in the unvaccinated.

Cruise ships and some foreign destinations are requiring proof of vaccination, and an increasing number of businesses are mandating vaccines. President Joe Biden recently mandated vaccines for millions, including federal employees, federal contractors, and healthcare workers whose facilities accept Medicare or Medicaid funding.

Dr. Dan Bell, co-founder of the ECHO Clinic, said clearly the next wave will be for booster shots. Currently boosters are approved for people who are immune compromised eight months after their second shots. Pfizer boosters for everyone 12 and older might be available by Sept. 20 with Moderna expected to be a bit later.

“Moderna might be able to use a smaller dose at the six-month mark because their initial shot was larger than Pfizer’s shot,” Bell said. “We have the Moderna at Smith Drug and are looking at that for the booster shot. We won’t give it until the CDC approves it.”

Bell said he is excited that the third shot can jack up antibody levels five to tenfold while it appears to provide protection to the Delta variant. In Israel where 2.7 million people have received booster shots, it appears the Delta variant has calmed down.

Bell said things are looking hopeful now in Arkansas, which may have reached a peak in August and is currently declining. There is a question if schools and activities like football games where large crowds gather could send infection rates in the other direction.

“There is some hope we are getting over the current surge,” Bell said. “The question is whether another surge is coming. There probably is going to be a winter surge with normal seasonal patterns getting back indoors.”

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