County’s new case count continues to drop as another death reported
Another Carroll County resident has died from complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the number of local deaths to 41.
The additional death — the first in the past seven days — was reported Tuesday morning by the Arkansas Department of Health, in addition to 22 new cases of the novel coronavirus, a significant decrease from the week before, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Carroll County continues to show signs of a downward trend.
Tuesday’s case numbers reflected an 80 percent decrease in new cases per week since Feb. 2.
According to the ADH, the total number of reported cases in Carroll County as of Tuesday was 2,696, including 2,292 lab-confirmed cases, 2,596 reported “recoveries,” and 59 active cases.
Statewide, the number of reported cases reached 313,348 on Tuesday — up 5,975 in the past seven days, a 45-percent decrease from the weekly total reported on Feb. 9 — including 248,351 lab-confirmed cases, 297,552 reported “recoveries,” and 10,494 active cases, down from 11,686 reported last week.
The number of reported deaths on Tuesday was 5,275, an increase of 169 since Feb. 9, or approximately 24 per day.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, speaking during his weekly news conference in Little Rock on Feb. 9, said the pandemic numbers are moving in the right direction.
“Over the last week, it's flattened out and it's good that we've reduced it down,” Hutchinson said. “We want it to continue to go down, and it's a reminder that if we don't take the right precautions, then the spread will continue, the cases will go up and we'll be back in a very bad situation.”
Referring to a graphic displaying the number of cases reported daily, Hutchinson pointed out the steep decline.
“That is the lowest it's been for some time,” Hutchinson said. “That's good news for our healthcare workers. The active number of cases, as I indicated, is going down very dramatically. And and I look forward to the time that that gets down to where it was back in early October.”
One new concern among healthcare workers is the proliferation of new variants of the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Jose Romero, secretary of the state health department, said last week that continuing to stay vigilant is the most important step.
“There will be variants,” Romero said. “We'll have to see where they're going. We are seeing certain variants increasing every doubling time, every 10 days, so they will eventually get here. Right now, we haven't found any. We keep sending specimens to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. We're looking for them. But that will not change our strategy. Our strategy still remains: Vaccinate as many people as we can, keep the number of individuals to as low as possible where the virus can't replicate and then keep the mitigation measures going.
“We can keep this under control.”
Romero said the current downtrend is encouraging.
“Certainly one way of classifying our reduction in cases this time could be that we're in the eye of a hurricane, although I don't think so,” Romero said. “I think that we have driven this downward. The cases have gone down, but we have the opportunity now to to get ourselves in a situation where we can prevent more cases, where we can continue with these mitigation measures. That is the most important thing that's going to get us through any new variants that come on, because those are the ones that we can mitigate with the standard three measures, washing our hands, watching our distance and keeping our masks in place.”
Another key factor in the reduction in new cases has been the state’s vaccination efforts. Romero reported last week that, for the first time since November, the positivity rate across the state was less than 10 percent.
“When combining both the positivity rate for our PCR tests and our antigen test, we have for the first time under that, we're at 9.9,” Romero said. “We hope to continue to see that go downward. It means that our efforts are working, that your efforts are working, and that we need to continue with the mitigation strategies. Things are moving in the right direction. We can keep them moving as long as we continue our mitigation strategies and our vaccines are moving outward. We're starting to get them into portions of the state where we have an equal distribution across the entire state. And we'll be working on that as we receive new vaccines.”
On Monday, the ADH reported that it has received 719,000 vaccine doses, with 474,603 already administered, drawing praise from Hutchinson.
“I'm pleased with the [vaccine distribution] team and the work that they're doing,” Hutchinson said. “I’m grateful for our hospitals and our pharmacies are doing a great job on the front line of getting these vaccinations out quickly. They're coming in. They're moving out. We're getting it into the arms of Arkansans.”
Hutchinson reported last week that 100 percent of long-term care facilities in the state have had at least one vaccination clinic and that 12.8 percent of the state’s population had been vaccinated.
Arkansas is still operating in Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, working through the initial groups of state residents aged 70 and over and educators.
The reminder of Phase 1B — which will eventually include food/agricultural workers, firefighters and police not in 1-A, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, child care workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government workers — is expected to include more than 400,000 Arkansans.
Phase 1-C is planned for April.
According to the ADH website, local pharmacies participating in the vaccine effort include Economy Drug in Berryville, Harps Pharmacy in Green Forest, Holiday Island Pharmacy, Poynor Drug in Berryville and Smith Drug & Company in Eureka Springs.