GARLAND COUNTY, Ark. – Garland County is seeing a major spike in COVID-19 cases after being one of the lowest counties in the state. It is now seventh in Arkansas when it comes to active cases. According to health officials, it follows major holiday weekends.
The day COVID-19 hit the state, Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby said he thought they had everything under control.
“In May we were averaging probably about five or six active cases a week. Then Memorial Day weekend happened,” Dr. Shelby said.
Two weeks later, those five to six cases grew to 22. By the end of June, there were 50 new cases in the county. Then the next holiday weekend came and went.
“About eight or nine days after the Fourth of July weekend we got a really big spike. This past week we had 210 new cases,” Dr. Shelby said.
Now, Garland County has a total of more than 780 cases and almost 240 of those are active.
“We’re trying to get it under control, but it’s a real difficult situation. We’re really on an upswing in the number of active cases that we have,” Dr. Shelby said.
Dr. Shelby said a lot of that isn’t because of those living in the county, but those crossing state lines.
“Of course a lot of people come to Hot Springs. I mean it’s been a tourist destination for years and years,” Dr. Shelby said.
“It’s beautiful we like to visit the historic bathhouses,” Hot Springs tourist J.J. Jikong said.
Jikong and his family are visiting from Tennessee and Texas.
“They couldn’t refund our money so that’s why we still came,” Jikong said.
While they had some concerns about making the trip, he says they are trying to follow all the guidelines.
“Our car is full of hand sanitizer and things like that,” Jikong said.
Dr. Shelby says tourism won’t stop because of the virus, but there are ways to slow the spread.
“100% of people wearing masks and then the social distancing we really have to make an effort,” Dr. Shelby said.
Dr. Shelby said about 30 percent of the cases are coming from those 25 and younger. He encourages everyone to follow the guidelines and wear a mask.