COVID-19 case numbers spike during July in Crawford and Sebastian counties

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,193 views 

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Sebastian County are up more than 200% between July 2 and July 30, and the active case count is up more than 50%. Known cases in Crawford County during the same period are up 160.5%, and active cases are up 20.5%.

Sebastian County had 57 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday (July 30) bringing the county’s number of active cases to 391. There have been 1,601 positive cases of the virus in Sebastian County since mid-March and 14 deaths. On July 2, there were 533 known cases, 257 active cases and 5 deaths.

Crawford County had 106 active cases Thursday with a total of 495 positive cases and three deaths. On July 2, there were 190 known cases, 88 active cases and 1 death.

Mercy-Fort Smith reported they had eight COVID patients in the intensive care unit with an additional 13 patients hospitalized.

“We have no issues or concerns to report and are prepared for a surge should that be necessary,” said Mardi Taylor, senior media relations and communications specialist at Mercy-Fort Smith. “In addition, we will continue to test patients for COVID-19 ahead of elective surgeries, as we have done.”

Interim Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said Thursday the Department of Health was dropping its requirement for pre-surgery testing, and leaving that decision to doctors and hospitals.

Numbers were not available Thursday from Baptist Health-Fort Smith.

Concerns have been raised the past week with the Peacemaker Festival in Fort Smith July 24-25 because of violations resulting from attendees not socially distancing or wearing masks. Arkansas Beverage Control issued a citation to the festival July 27 because of failure to follow ADH directives concerning large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If there is a spike caused from the pandemic, it should be seven to 10 days after the event, which would be Aug. 1-3, said Dr. Bryan Clardy, a physician with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Fort Smith, vice-chief of staff for Baptist Health-Fort Smith and Sebastian County Medical Officer. He noted, however, that a spike might be hidden in the increased use of masks following Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s mask mandate that went into effect July 20. Clardy said masks work and it’s hard to catch the virus outside, which leads him to be less worried about many attending the festival contracting the virus.

“At this point the vast majority of new COVID cases are contracted indoors, either in the home or events in indoor venues. A strong secondary signal is the work place,” Clardy said. “These individuals bring it home, and then it spreads in the household. … I expect we will not see a significant spike from Peacemaker, as we did not see significant spikes from outdoor protests either.”

Sebastian and Crawford counties have reported positive cases of the virus at the jails. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) conducted testing at Sebastian County Detention Center and the Crawford County Detention Center earlier this month.

Around 350 tests were conducted at the Sebastian County jail with one employee and two inmates tasting positive, said Capt. Philip Pevehouse. One employee had tested positive prior to the mass testing. There have not been any other cases of the virus since those tests early in July, Pevehouse said.

“We have a low population in ADC currently. This has allowed us to quarantine if necessary. Also, any employee is off work until they are cleared,” he said.

Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown reported July 24 that ADH had administered tests to 173 inmates and 18 jail personnel. Of those, 32 inmates tested positive for the virus. The inmates who tested positive were quarantined from all other inmates and are being monitored.