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Letter to the Editor: Ouachita County Task Force

July 7, 2021 at 8:40 a.m.

Greetings to the Citizens of Ouachita County:

Update on our COVID-19 Journey:

As we head into another holiday weekend, our battle with COVID-19 continues.

Last year at this time, we had no treatment or vaccines for this deadly contagious virus.

In November 2020, we began Monoclonal Antibody infusions to prevent progression of illness to the point of hospitalization—to date we have administered 241 infusions.

We have had a total of 154 hospitalizations for COVID which has certainly required ramping up of our staff, particularly our clinical staff. OCMC staff rose to the occasion while shouldering concerns for their own health as well as the health of their families.

In August, we opened our Express Test Site to give our community access to COVID-19 testing without their desire for a Provider visit. If they want a test, they can get a test. Our Express Care staff works diligently to be sure the tests are performed safely, provide educational material, and call results to patients. Thermometers and pulse oximeters are provided at no charge to COVID positive patients.

In December, we rejoiced with the vaccine rollout and prevention efforts began; again our staff ramped up to make this happen—for our staff and community.

From mid-March to the end of May, we observed a decline in COVID-19 testing as well as positive cases.

That all changed after the Memorial Day holiday; beginning June 7, our COVID testing as well as positive cases greatly increased.

Yesterday, June 30, Governor Hutchison announced a spike of 686 positive cases in Arkansas in a single day, a number that has not been seen since February in Arkansas; this following his lifting of the statewide mask mandate the end of May.

This is seen as a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus as the Delta variant spreads in our state.

Currently in Arkansas: Active Cases 3,763

Deaths 5,909

Hospitalized 325

On Ventilators 75

Per Arkansas Dept of Health statistics, over 90% of these active cases are not fully vaccinated.

UAMS, as of last week, reopened it’s COVID Unit at their hospital due to rapidly rising hospitalizations.

In Ouachita County, we had decreased to single digit numbers in active cases in mid-May, actually 1 active case on May 18, 2021—today per the ADH website Ouachita County shows 41 active cases.

We currently have 7 hospitalized.

This week we have seen increasing cases in our adolescent group with positive results in our 11-15 year olds. This has been attributed to large group activities who are not observing the recommended safety precaution of masks and social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that unvaccinated people wear masks—so you see that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.

So with all of that said, approximately 75-95% of these cases can be prevented with vaccines, which a vast number of our community are not interested in taking.

We currently have Moderna vaccines available, vaccine clinics every Friday, and our pharmacy staff have made themselves available daily to our public who are in our facility for other reasons. You can get your vaccine while you have your Lab work or Radiology study.

Vaccines are also available at local retail pharmacies, Ouachita County Health Unit, and Ouachita Valley Family Clinic.

Please know the facts presented in this report and help us to spread the word to all you may encounter. Vaccines are safe and effective.

This contagious and deadly virus is spreading throughout our county and state once again; prevention is available through masks and vaccines.

CDC is now strongly encouraging that fully vaccinated people wear masks in crowded venues and socially distance as much as possible.

So, to summarize, please be careful this holiday weekend; wear your masks when away from home- the life you save may be your own or a loved one. If you have not been vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to do so.

Vaccines and masks will slow this spread as we have seen this past March through May.

Thank you for your support of our hospital and healthcare community. We truly can get control of this pandemic if EVERYONE does their part—help us to vaccinate Ouachita County.

Thank You,

The COVID-19 Task Force of Ouachita County Medical Center

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