JONESBORO — State officials say Arkansans living in congregate settings are the most vulnerable in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and several in the region are affected by the virus.
According to data reported Monday by the Arkansas Department of Health, 20 long-term care facilities and correctional institutions in Northeast Arkansas have active coronavirus cases. In Craighead County, The Springs of Jonesboro reported the most cases.
The nursing home tallied a total of 48 active cases, with 32 infected residents and 16 staff members afflicted with the coronavirus, according to ADH data.
Craighead County ranked fifth statewide Tuesday, reporting 63 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, ADH Secretary Jose Romero said in a weekly press briefing.
The state added 20 new coronavirus deaths, most of which came from congregate living facilities, Romero said. ADH reports do not indicate when a facility’s last death was counted.
“It’s a population we’re clearly concerned about,” he said. “Our elderly in nursing homes and congregate facilities are vulnerable. Bringing them to your home may be a detriment to their health. … Consider postponing your Thanksgiving with them.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported that ADH’s Northeast public health region, which includes Craighead County, had the highest growth rate of new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 8-14 at 10.4 percent.
Atop any congregate setting in the region, the Arkansas Department of Correction’s McPherson Unit reported 94 active coronavirus cases. According to the ADH report released Monday, all of the cases were attributed to infected inmates.
ADC suspended visitation through Nov. 13 and offered lower rates for phone calls and video visitation due to the ongoing pandemic. In Northeast Arkansas, there are state correctional facilities in Newport, Luxora, West Memphis and Osceola.
Hutchinson assembled a task force assigned to suggest how to slow the spread of COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalizations in the state this winter. Representing Northeast Arkansas on the advisory committee is Chris Barber, chief executive of St. Bernards Healthcare of Jonesboro.
“We are on the precipice of significant and a possibly uncontrollable rise in cases. This is like a boulder rolling down a hill,” Romero said. “There will come a time where we can not stop it. It will continue to escalate and overwhelm our health care facilities. Now is the time to act and I cannot stress enough the importance of the three W’s. Wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.”