JONESBORO — For the past month, Jonesboro hospitals have been treating as many coronavirus patients as the hospitals in Little Rock, Chris Barber, chief executive of St. Bernards Healthcare said.

“To date, the Jonesboro hospitals have treated over 1,350 COVID-hospitalized patients in our acute care facilities,” Barber said. “Now think about this; we all know the dense population in central Arkansas and Little Rock compared to Northeast Arkansas … For the last 30 days, we have seen a 112% increase in Northeast Arkansas COVID patients.”

Barber; Sam Lynd, CEO of NEA Baptist Health System; and Shane Speights, dean of NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University joined Craighead County Judge Marvin Day on Friday morning for an online discussion of the high outbreak of coronavirus cases in the region.

Day said the outbreak here is gaining national attention.

“Donald Trump's White House Task Force said, 'Hey look guys, you all need to get together and work on this, and here we are,” Day said. “The hospitals started getting their message out and the mayor and I are trying to encourage the people here in Northeast Arkansas to help us.”

The local hospitals can handle the current volume of patients, for now, Barber said.

“But I want to be very candid with the group this morning,” Barber said. “We cannot continue the trend that we're seeing right now. We cannot have consecutive months going into this wintertime period with a 112% increase in COVID hospitalizations. At some point in time, you can only flex so much. You can only stretch so much.”

Day said the people of Northeast Arkansas provided food and clothing and helped victims in other ways following the March 28 tornado. Now, it's time to help in another way.

“We're not mandating anything,” Day stressed. “We're just asking the community to come together and help, to do that for others. For your health care workers. For your neighbors and just try to protect each other.”