JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Both Jonesboro city and Craighead County leaders are scheduled to meet March 16 with medical professions to revisit the coronavirus issue in the area, according to Craighead County Judge Marvin Day.
However, Day said officials may be meeting sooner to discuss the issue.
Day said the meeting was already planned before the presumed cases in the Natural State were confirmed and that officials are closely monitoring the situation.
Day also emphasized that there is not a crisis in Northeast Arkansas at the moment and that people should be careful, including washing their hands.
Also, Day said people should use social distancing, especially they are over the age of 60.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin also issued a statement Thursday on the issue. Perrin said he plans to close all community centers and senior centers in Jonesboro effectively immediately for at least a week due to the issue.
It reads, in part:
"My administration is working diligently to achieve two goals regarding the COVID-19 outbreak:
First, to deploy in all areas under city government the state Health Department- and CDC-approved best practices that will help prevent the spread of coronavirus in our city and region; and second to dispel the false rumors that can cause panic and distraction, rather than allowing people to focus on the simple measures that will see us through this period safely and responsibly.
Because the most important part of shutting down this virus is early response, I am closing our senior centers and all community centers effective immediately for at least a week.
City meetings, including council, boards and committees, remain scheduled. However, as evidenced by events nation-wide, we will address these decisions again as new information becomes available.
The Arkansas Department of Health as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made it clear that as we prepare for a likely outbreak that the steps for safety don’t change:
Wash your hands often. Don’t touch your face. Avoid crowds. If you feel sick, stay home.
Our leadership is applying approved practices to address all legitimate concerns promptly and proactively.
We understand that every business, church and organization needs to decide on its own how to proceed, however the City of Jonesboro is taking this precautionary measure. Again, this is not because we are in a crisis, but because we want to prevent one."
City Medical Director Dr. Shane Speights also said people need to be careful.
“As we have seen in the media, the Coronavirus (COVID19) continues to shape our day to day lives and we are not immune to those changes here in Jonesboro. It is important that we begin to think about how we can reduce our risk of having widespread disease in our community. In addition to routine handwashing and the practice of good hygiene, social distancing is also recommended,” Speights said. “Social distancing consists of limiting our interactions in large groups or gatherings, especially those at the highest risk of complication from this disease – our elderly and those patients with chronic diseases.”
On March 5, Jonesboro city, medical and Craighead County leaders discussed what impact the coronavirus may have on the region, with officials saying people can avoid the spread of the virus.
In the afternoon press conference, Perrin, Day and Speights took questions about the area’s approach to the illness.
All three officials said the approach will be similar to one taken during the 2009 H1N1 virus in the United States.
Day said officials have heard from healthcare, utility and school leaders in recent days about the issue. The goal, Day said, will involve getting factual information out to the public in a timely manner and using best practices to avoid the spread of the virus.
“While there is certainly no reason to panic in Craighead County, it is important that institutions have plans in place,” Judge Day said.
Dr. Speights said the coronavirus is a new virus and that there have no cases reported in Arkansas. However, he said people are being evaluated.
Right now, there is no vaccine or medicine to treat coronavirus. However, Dr. Speights said its symptoms can last longer than a cold, typically 7-10 days.
Speights said in a media release that the coronavirus infection rate is mild and can look like the common cold. He said the mortality rate right now appears to be higher than the seasonal flu, but that the numbers are changing.
Also, people with heart, lung or kidney conditions can be more susceptible to severe symptoms of coronavirus, Dr. Speights said, noting people can help avoid the spread of any disease by washing their hands, exercising and having physical activity.
As for tips, healthcare officials said people can wash their hands regularly at least five times a day for 20 seconds, not touching your eyes, mouth, and nose with unclean hands, cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze with a tissue or an elbow, clean items like cell phones and door handles and stay home if you are sick.
Dr. Speights said you can prevent yourself from getting the virus from home.
“Healthy habits increase your immune system and at a time like this where you’re going to get infected, or possibly get infected with a new virus, that we don’t have all these drugs, vaccines to fix it or help," Dr. Speights said. "You’re going to have to rely on your immune system.”
Perrin agreed with Day, saying the meeting Thursday was the first step in avoiding the spread of rumors on the issue.
Perrin also said each of the groups are working together on the approach and will help each other.
Several area school superintendents also attended the meeting Thursday.
Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill said Thursday that city and county officials will be meeting at 9 a.m. Friday to discuss the covid-19 issue.
Gaskill said the meeting will include police, fire, hospital and sheriff’s officials as well as emergency services.
The city will be also closing all of its parks and its senior adult centers, starting March 13, for two weeks, Gaskill said.