Since the first confirmed positive COVID-19 case on March 11 in Arkansas, state officials have pointed out the regional differences as the virus continues to spread.
Northwest Arkansas saw a significant increase in new cases beginning in mid-May with outbreaks in the community and workplaces. However, the number of new cases has been on the downward trend since June 27. There were nearly 300 new COVID-19 cases on June 27, but the number has decreased to approximately 200 to 250 new cases on the seven-day rolling average graph for the northwest region.
“It is very encouraging that we are seeing not only plateauing but a downward trend in new cases in the northwest,” Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s press conference on July 6. “We’ve invested a lot of effort there and we will continue to do that because there’s always the chance that can reverse and start going up again.”
The region still has the most number of hospitalizations with approximately 100 to 120 COVID-19 patients.
Central Arkansas has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Hutchinson said there was “a very steep increase” in the last week within the region at his press conference today.
While Central Arkansas had its first peak of cases at the beginning of April with nearly 40 cases, the number of new cases has gradually increased again since the beginning of June. On July 3, there were a little over 120 new cases in the region. However, the number has declined within the past two days to approximately between 100 and 120 new cases on the seven-day rolling average graph for the central region. Currently, there are approximately 40 to 50 COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
According to Smith, he is particularly concerned about how relatively widespread the virus is in Central Arkansas.
“As opposed to Northwest [Arkansas] where we could identify particular populations, industries etc. and target our approach, we’re really not seeing that [in Central Arkansas],” he said. “We’ve seen a few things here and there, but this is pretty widespread…”
With a high population density and large number of potential individuals at risk for the virus, Smith noted the need for “collective action in order to turn this around.” Furthermore, he said that “bars and other facilities need to follow directives that we put in place.”
“We are going to need to not only watch [the number of new cases] carefully, but take action so that we don’t have something happen in Central Arkansas like what we saw in Northwest Arkansas,” said Smith. “It could be particularly challenging to control that here and I think that contact tracing will really help us with that.”
He later added that, “If we get enough active cases in Central Arkansas, especially the more populated areas, like Little Rock [and] North Little Rock, then the chance of encountering someone who is infected is higher.”