4 Carroll County residents dead from COVID-19
By Scott Loftis
A total of four Carroll County residents have died from the COVID-19 virus, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
The ADH website indicated that 136 Carroll County residents had tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday afternoon — a number that represents an increase of more than 50 percent in a week’s time and includes 60 active cases, 72 recovered cases and the four deaths. A week earlier, on Tuesday, June 16, the health department reported that Carroll County had 88 confirmed cases, with 55 active, 32 recovered and one death.
Benton County coroner Daniel Oxford confirmed on Wednesday, June 17, that two Carroll County residents had died of the virus in that county. Family members reported that another Carroll County resident died from the virus on Thursday, June 18.
Northwest Arkansas has become a hotspot for the virus, which now has had almost 17,000 confirmed cases in the state. As of Tuesday, the health department reported 2,128 cases in Benton County with 741 active cases and 14 deaths. Washington County had 2,680 confirmed cases with 1,040 active and 21 deaths, according to ADH, while Madison County had 162 cases with 77 active and no deaths.
Oxford said, however, that the death toll in Benton County is higher than the ADH is reporting.
“I am not sure what the state is doing here, either,” Oxford said on June 17. “It’s just crazy. Right now, I have a male and a female, both Hispanic, from Carroll County. Our numbers aren’t showing anything like the state’s numbers. We’re showing we’ve got 26 deaths. I think the state website says we have eight, seven or eight. They say they’re counting the deaths based off of the county of residence, not the county of death, but the county of death is having to file the death certificates so, you know, let’s just make it up as we go along here I guess.”
According to friends and relatives, two of the Carroll County victims worked at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Berryville. Tyson is the county’s largest employer, with processing plants in Berryville and Green Forest. According to an ADH report released Monday, a total of 29 Carroll County residents employed by poultry businesses have tested positive for the virus, with seven active cases and 22 recovered. Fourteen of those cases, including six active cases, involved individuals working at Tyson facilities in Green Forest, according to the report.
Statewide, a total of 1,903 residents employed in the poultry business have tested positive, according to the ADH report, with 618 active cases. Of the active cases, 346 (56 percent) were in Hispanic or Latino individuals, the report says.
In a news release issued Friday, Tyson said it conducted facility-wide testing in Benton and Washington counties. Of 3,748 employees who were tested, the company said, 481 (13 percent) tested positive for the virus, with 455 (95 percent) of those individuals displaying no symptoms.
In the news release, Tyson says it is “rolling out advanced testing capabilities” in partnership with Matrix Medical, a medical clinical services company, and other partners. Axiom Medical, a health care case management provider, is also tracking the symptoms of employees who test positive and providing additional care at select facilities, the news release says.
“The protective measures include symptom screenings for all team members before every shift, providing mandatory protective face masks to all team members, as well as a range of social distancing measures, including physical barriers between workstations and in breakrooms,” the news release says. “In addition, Tyson has implemented social distancing monitors at each processing facility to ensure team members are maintaining safe distances. Tyson is also working with team members to provide training and education in several languages on how best to follow CDC guidelines both at work and home.”
Carroll County Judge Sam Barr said he personally knew one of the county residents who died from the virus.
“The only reason why I knew that is because his daughter called me the night before he died and told me had it,” Barr said Monday. “The state don’t tell me nothing.”
Barr urged residents to take precautions and exercise common sense.
“Common sense would tell you if somebody’s coughing or sneezing to stay away from them,” he said. “Try to wear a face mask if you’re out in public. Wash your hands often and disinfect them often. I don’t want to tell how anybody how to run their life but I do care about them and want to protect them if I can.”