Carroll County cases on the rise: Cluster reported at Berryville nursing home

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By Scott Loftis

and Samantha Jones

Fueled by a cluster of newly confirmed cases at a Berryville nursing home, Carroll County’s COVID-19 statistics have risen sharply over the past week.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported Tuesday afternoon that there have been a cumulative total of 757 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County, with an additional 14 probable cases. Those numbers include 85 active confirmed cases and four active probable cases. Ten Carroll County residents have died from the virus, according to the health department.

One week earlier, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, Carroll County had 680 confirmed and seven probable cases, with 77 active cases. There were also eight probable cases, with two active.

The rise of 84 confirmed and probable cases equals a 12.2 percent increase, while active confirmed and probable cases in the county increased by 12.7 percent, from 79 to 89.

A health department report on nursing home cases released Monday indicated there were 10 cases among residents and five among staff at Autumn Hill Therapy and Living Center in Berryville. The most recent positive cases among both residents and staff were reported on Wednesday, Sept. 30, according to the report.

Autumn Hill administrator John Higgs responded via email to a request for comment, saying the facility first received word of a “presumptive positive case” during routine weekly testing on Monday, Sept. 28. Higgs said Autumn Hill has been working closely with local health agencies and the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“Our residents are currently in isolation at the facility following guidance from the CDC to reduce the risk of exposure to others,” Higgs said in a statement. “We are taking several additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus in our community including monitoring all residents and staff for fever and respiratory symptoms.

“Autumn Hill continues to work with Arkansas Department of Health and CDC to identify and contact residents and staff who may have come into contact with the individual while they were infectious,” Higgs said.

“No other information will be provided about the residents. We are strictly adhering to CDC guidelines and taking the necessary steps to ensure we are doing all we can to protect the health of our residents and employees.”

Speaking at his weekly COVID-19 update in Little Rock, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced new guidelines for visitation at long-term care facilities. Among the guidelines for “expanded visitation” are that the facility has not had a newly positive COVID-19 case in the previous 14 days.

Hutchinson also announced 532 newly confirmed cases, bringing the state’s cumulative total of confirmed cases to 84,230. The governor announced 22 additional deaths, bringing the state’s death toll from the virus to 1,321. The state has also seen another 148 probable deaths from COVID-19.

Confirmed cases are based on positive PCR tests, while probable cases are based on less sensitive antigen tests.

The number of Arkansans hospitalized because of the virus increased by five Tuesday, according to Hutchinson, to a record 529. Still, the governor said the state’s hospital capacity is not in crisis.

“We do have adequate hospital space,” Hutchinson said. “There is sufficient room for the cases. We’re not in a most difficult circumstance. But we want to see those numbers go down over time.”

Later in the news conference, Hutchinson reiterated the point in response to a question from a reporter.

“We have more than adequate number of ICU beds,” he said. “If you look at the numbers, last week the utilization of ICU beds by COVID patients had been going down. So there’s not any concern there in terms the adequacy of ICU beds.”

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