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'Significant increases' continue to be seen in COVID winter spike

The following is a news release by the Garland County COVID-19 Task Force on Monday.

In his weekly report to the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force, Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby shared on Monday, Dec. 20, that we continue to see significant increases in all of our COVID metrics as the winter COVID spike spreads in Garland County.

“The omicron variant has been found in Arkansas, and most likely it is in Garland County,” Shelby said.

“With UAMS now able to do genetic sequencing, I suspect we will get a better determination of how prevalent it truly is in the next few weeks," he continued. "But, as has been demonstrated around the world, it is so highly contagious that it becomes the predominant strain rapidly as it spreads in a community. Fortunately, it seems to cause milder disease. The current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines continue to show good protection against omicron, but only if they are boosted with a third dose.”

For the week of Dec. 12 – 19, Garland County had 157 new positive cases for an average of 22.4 per day. This compares to the 101 and 53 new case totals from the previous two weeks, or 14.4 and 7.6 per day. This means the daily caseload has tripled in just two weeks. Garland County’s active cases were at 167 as of Monday morning. This compares with 135 and 69 from the previous two weeks, more than doubling in that period. The county’s COVID death toll also rose by four to 411.

“The only good news is our comparison with our dire situation this week a year ago when we had 577 active cases, 439 new positives and a positivity rate of 13.2%," Shelby said. "But, with the excitement then of the arrival of vaccines, I don’t think we expected COVID-19 to still be the number one headline again this Christmas. I guess we all hope and pray that Christmas 2022 will be different.”

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