COVID still a concern in Fort Smith metro

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,094 views 

The mask mandate has been lifted along with other cautionary restrictions that were commonplace for more than 12 months beginning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Arkansas in March 2020. Life has started to return to what most consider normal, but the COVID virus remains and people throughout the state are still fighting it.

As of Thursday (June 11), there were 208 people throughout the state hospitalized with COVID-19, 39 were on ventilators. Hospitalizations were down eight from Wednesday (June 10).

Alicia Agent, marketing manager with Baptist Health Fort Smith & Van Buren, said Baptist is still caring for COVID patients at the hospital in Fort Smith. Mardi Taylor, senior media relations and communications specialist with Mercy Fort Smith, said there are currently two COVID patients in the ICU at Mercy and one other COVID patient hospitalized.

“While numbers are much, much lower than recent months, we are still caring for COVID-19 patients in our facilities. We continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated,” said Stephanie Whitaker, chief nursing officer with Baptist Health.

As of Thursday, there were 1,769 total active COVID cases in the state, up 110 since Wednesday. The total number of COVID cases throughout the state since March 2020 is 343,216. There have been 5,856 deaths, according to the Arkansas Department of Health website.

Taylor said Mercy Fort Smith has administered 49,576 COVID tests as of Thursday since they began testing for COVID in 2020.

State and community leaders and local, regional and national medical experts continue to encourage everyone to get the COVID vaccine. The vaccines are free and widely available to anyone 12 and older.

There are three available. The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines both require two doses, from 21 to 28 days apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is single dose. The Johnson & Johnson and the Moderna are available to those 18 and older. Pfizer is available to younger patients.

Arkansas had administered 2.03 million doses of the vaccine as of Thursday, up 6,381 from Wednesday. The ADH reports that 39.35% of the state’s population 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.

Numbers in Sebastian County fall significantly lower than the state with 22.51% of the population over 12 having been fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Crawford County reports a 26.21% vaccination rate of the population 12 and older fully vaccinated. Miller County has the lowest vaccination rate in the state with 8.65% of the population 12 and older fully vaccinated.

“We strongly encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine and have appointments available by registering at mercy.net/fsmvaccine or calling 833-364-6777,” Taylor said.

Mercy has hosted a number of outreach events where COVID vaccines have been available on a walk-in basis, including May 22 at Fairview Elementary School, where personnel administered 137 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on a Saturday morning.

“We also hosted a clinic at Kimmons Junior High in April, where more than 300 doses of the vaccine were administered. We had Spanish translators on site during these events, and we have had vaccine information translated into Spanish to make sure we are reaching that population. We also hosted ‘Senior Day’ activities at Mercy Fitness Center where vaccines were available to our older population,” Taylor said.

 Outside of Fort Smith, Mercy hosted walk-in clinics at Mercy Hospital Ozark and Mercy Hospital Booneville and has worked with businesses such as Butterball to make vaccines available more easily.

Baptist also is working hard to get area residents vaccinated. Whitaker said Baptist Health utilizes many of its communication outlets including its website and social media to educate the public on the importance of getting vaccinated and where to get it.

Baptist Fort Smith continues to offer vaccination clinics once a week for the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for all residents 12 (with a parent or guardian) and older at Baptist Health Medical Plaza on Dodson Avenue. Appointments can be made via Baptist Health MyChart, which is their online patient portal, Whitaker said.

Baptist Health Community Outreach, in conjunction with the health department, will offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics at two Fort Smith churches Saturday (June 12):

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mission United MethodistChurch, 721 N. 10th St. (Walk-up clinic)
  • 2 to 4 p.m. at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 2701 Old Greenwood Road (Drive-thru clinic)

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. No registration is required. Those coming to be vaccinated must be 18 or older and should bring a photo ID.

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