21st death reported in county: COVID-19 numbers rise sharply across state

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

By Scott Loftis and Haley Schichtl


The number of COVID-19 infections in Carroll County rose sharply over the past week, reflecting a statewide trend, and the Arkansas Department of Health reported that another county resident has died from the virus.

Meanwhile, the Berryville School District’s middle school and high school moved to virtual instruction on Thursday, Nov. 12, citing a high number of cases and quarantines among staff and students. Students won’t return to campus until Nov. 30, after the Thanksgiving break,

As of Monday morning, the health department reported a cumulative total of 1,109 confirmed cases and 62 probable cases of COVID-19 in the county. That represents an increase of 68 confirmed cases and nine probable cases in the past week. The health department said there were 91 active confirmed cases and 16 active probable cases in the county as of Monday morning — an increase of 29 active confirmed cases and seven active probable cases over the past week.

One death from the virus was reported in Carroll County over the past week, raising the county’s total death toll to 21.

Nine residents at Autumn Hill Therapy and Living Center in Berryville have died from the virus according to the ADH’s most recent report on nursing homes, released Friday, Nov. 6. No report on nursing homes was released last week.

Statewide, Arkansas saw a total of 11,174 new confirmed and probable cases over the past seven days — an average of 1,596 new cases per day. The health department reported at least 1,800 new cases for four consecutive days beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11, including a record of 2,312 on Friday, Nov. 13.

The state reported a total of 98 deaths over the past week, with 93 involving confirmed cases and five involving probable cases. As of Monday morning, the health department said 830 Arkansans were hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since the pandemic began in mid-March.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday that he would form a 20-member “winter task force” to address the pandemic and also announced that he would authorize 30 Arkansas National Guard members to assist the health department with contact tracing.

Hutchinson said he had no plans to impose restrictions that might interrupt the state’s economy.

“You can never predict exactly what the future is going to be like and you can’t rule out anything, but that’s not the direction we’re going,” Hutchinson said. “We want to keep our economy open, and if people do what they need to do, you don’t need to shut it down.”

Berryville schools

While Berryville’s middle school and high school pivoted to virtual instruction, the elementary and intermediate schools are continuing on-site instruction.

“We have a high number of positive, and we’ve got a really big number of quarantined due to contact with the positives, with both staff and students,” superintendent Owen Powell said. “So we really needed to pivot and go virtual to try and get the numbers down.

“We thought it was a good time to pivot, because not only are we getting a couple days this week, we’re getting all of next week, and the following week is Thanksgiving break,” Powell said. “So we’re really only pivoting seven school days, but we’re getting two and a half weeks where we can distance everybody out.”

The health department reported Thursday, Nov. 12, that there was a cumulative total of 89 cases among Berryville staff and students, with 63 cases involving students and 23 involving staff. The report noted that “student and faculty/staff cases may not add up to the cumulative total due to unavailable data.” The report said there were 10 active cases among Berryville staff and students.

Students who need internet access can come to campus to do their virtual assignments, unless they are not feeling well or need to be quarantined because of contact with someone who has tested positive.

Connect 4 classes will continue onsite as usual, and those in athletics will be contacted by their coaches.

Staff who are not positive or in quarantine will be on campus, bus routes will run as usual, and curbside meal pickup will continue as usual.

Mercy Hospital

In a news release issued last week, doctors at Mercy Hospital Berryville reminded patients to stay vigilant about routine health screenings and to seek emergency care for serious symptoms such as chest pain or signs of a stroke.

 “With all of the precautions we are taking, including social distancing, wearing masks and hypervigilant cleaning protocols, medical clinics and hospitals are some of the safest places to be,” said Dr. Richard Taylor, a hospitalist who is chief of staff at Mercy Berryville. “We urge you not to postpone getting tests such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, because those screenings detect highly treatable problems and we want to catch them early.”

Likewise, Dr. Taylor said some patients are presenting with more serious symptoms in the emergency room because they delayed care for fear of contracting coronavirus. Patients have the best chance at a good outcome if they get treatment as quickly as possible for serious medical ailments, he said. Not seeking care can result in their condition becoming worse.

Patients with respiratory symptoms or suspected cases of COVID-19 are triaged and separated from patients with other issues to lessen the possibility of transmission. A recent study by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found a very slight chance of COVID-19 infection, less than 1 percent, from a hospital visit, the Mercy news release said.

Mercy Hospital Berryville features six negative-pressure rooms, which have specialized ventilation systems that aid in infection control and prevention. Four rooms serve patients in the ER and two are available to hospitalized patients.

“Mercy physicians are also having great success seeing patients via video and telephone for less serious medical problems, such as allergies, colds and urinary tract infections,” the news release said. “Mercy clinics offer in-person appointments and walk-ins for issues that can’t be addressed through a remote visit, with precautions taken, including requiring masks for all co-workers and patients and limiting waiting room interactions.”

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