Lawrence County deals with rise in coronavirus cases

By Courtney Edwards
Delta Digital News Service

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Lawrence County continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases. The Arkansas Department of Health reported a total of 685 confirmed cases as of Oct. 21.

“We are closely monitoring the cases in Lawrence County, as well as the rest of Arkansas, and are taking steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 going forward,” Gavin Lesnick, public information director for the Arkansas Department of Health, said. “These steps include making testing available throughout the state and educating people on the importance of simple precautions that can make a big difference like wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance from others in group settings and washing hands frequently.”

The county reported 134 new known cases over the past week according to USAFacts, a non-profit organization which offers a non-partisan portrait of the U.S. population. There were 747 cumulative confirmed and probable cases as of Tuesday compared to 613 reported on the previous Tuesday. 53 cases were reported in one day on Oct. 15.

Along with 134 new cases, the county also reported two new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total to 15. The total of recovered cases, however, was 518 as of Wednesday with the total of active cases at 150.

Local businesses have noticed the increase in cases recently. Although, it doesn’t directly affect most businesses, the pandemic has still implemented many changes for them.

“The way we have to do things is so different,” Erika Shields, owner of Shields Home Medical Equipment in Walnut Ridge, said. “That’s where it’s impacted us and been so stressful.”

Shields said the business has had to make changes to the way they handle equipment, how they get the equipment to customers, and even how they handle customers in person.

“Things are a lot less personal than it used to be. We’re a small, locally-owned business, so that’s super important to us,” Shields said. “We’re happy to do a lot of curbside or delivery.”

Shields said although the pandemic has changed the way she runs her business, she’s grateful for her own and her staff’s health. She said her staff has been exposed to COVID-19 from customers who came in before being diagnosed, but no one has tested positive from Shields Home Medical Equipment.

Out of the 747 cases reported in Lawrence County on Tuesday, many of them may be reflected in the number of cases from the Lawrence Hall Nursing Center. ADH reported 120 residents had tested positive as of Monday. 112 of these cases were reported to still be active while six have recovered and two have died. In addition, 62 staff members have tested positive.

“We never like to see cases increase and each death is a tragedy,” Lesnick said.

Lawrence County reported a relatively low number of new cases of COVID-19 throughout the early months of the year, with the highest number of new known cases in one day being 13 cases reported on Apr. 30. Reported cases started depleting in May all the way through July with many days reporting zero new cases. Although Lawrence County peaked in cases around April, it seems as though cases will start to arise with colder weather.

More active cases of COVID-19 were reported in Lawrence County during September and October than ever before. The state of Arkansas reported a total of 95,399 confirmed cases as of Oct. 20 according to ADH.

“The number of cumulative cases shows the extent to which COVID-19 can spread and underscores how important it is to be proactive in preventing continued transmission,” Lesnick said.

The ADH reported a total of 636 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Arkansas on Wednesday. Of those hospitalized, 99 are on ventilators.

“Patients with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested,” Lesnick said. “Testing is available in a number of places, including by appointment at local health units in every county in Arkansas. If a patient tests positive, they will need to isolate to prevent exposing others while they are infectious. They should check with their health care provider as symptoms develop or worsen.”

To help communities remember how to help stop the spread of COVID-19, ADH released directives on how to stay safe during the pandemic. Lesnick said a way people can help is “adhering to the Three W’s: wear a face mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.”

Note: Featured photo by Courtney Edwards