1st case confirmed: COVID-19 reaches Carroll County
By Scott Loftis
Carroll County has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, County Judge Sam Barr announced Wednesday, April 1.
In a Facebook post, Barr wrote that he and Carroll County Office of Emergency Management Director Nick Samac were notified of the confirmed case by Lisa Holt, director of the Carroll County Health Unit.
On Monday, the Arkansas Department of Health website indicated that Carroll County had one to four confirmed cases. Holt said by telephone that she was aware of only one case.
“To my knowledge, we just have the one case,” Holt said.
Holt said she couldn’t provide any demographic information about the confirmed case. Once the county has five confirmed cases, she said, she can reveal some demographic information.
“When it’s less than five, we’re not allowed to give that information because it’s too easy then to pinpoint somebody,” she said. “Once there are more than five, we can say ‘there’s three men and three women.’ We can give you those demographics, but right now it’s not allowed.”
She noted that privacy laws differ by state. For example, she said health officials in Missouri are allowed to reveal information about locations that might have been exposed to a person with a confirmed case.
“Arkansas does not reveal that information, because Arkansas law says we can’t,” Holt said.
Once an individual case is confirmed, Holt said the health department investigates that person’s contacts to determine who else might have been exposed.
“When that person tests positive, our contact investigators get with that person and they say ‘OK, where have you been? Who have you been around? Who lives in your home?’ ” Holt said. “They get all the contacts that they can possibly get from this individual, and then those investigators get on the phone. We have investigators working all over the state.”
Those investigators include health department nurses who have been removed from the front lines because of their own health situations.
“We’ve sent them home, trained to start doing contact investigation by phone,” Holt said. “So if someone is a close contact to a positive case, they may get a call from a health department nurse.”
Contacts are asked whether they are experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
“If so, they urge them to go get tested,” Holt said.
The Arkansas Department of Health website, www.HealthyArkansas.gov, features a map that lists the number of positive and negative tests for each county. The map is updated three times a day. As of 11 a.m. Monday, the map showed Carroll County with one to four positive tests and 68 negative tests.
Holt encouraged residents with concerns or questions to visit the health department website.
“It is open to the public to the view at any given time,” she said. “We try to keep everything public knowledge as much as we can without violating the Arkansas HIPPA law.”
In the meantime, Holt said health officials are doing everything they can to prepare and fight the spread of the virus.
“We are steadily working behind the scenes, hard and fast,” she said.