City medical director addresses Jonesboro’s rising COVID-19 numbers

City medical director speaks about rising COVID-19 numbers in Jonesboro

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the state of Arkansas, and during Wednesday’s news conference Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said Jonesboro is an emerging hot spot in the state.

Jonesboro City Medical Director Dr. Shane Speights said he is scratching his head over that.

“We’ve seen some ups and downs on the first of the month,” Speights said. “We had an increase of six cases but it has been down since then."

He added the trendline of the number of total cases is going up and we have not plateaued in Craighead County.

Right now, he cannot pinpoint one reason for the increase but did say more tests are being performed, which is a good thing.

“As you do more testing, you’re going to find more cases,” Speights said.

Speights and city officials believe there are more people who have COVID-19 than the numbers show.

“We’ve known for quite a while that there were a lot more cases circulating than we were picking up,” Speights said. “Depending on which research you look at that is between 5 to 10 (cases) for every one that you find.”

There is still a lag time, Speights said, between someone being tested for COVID-19 and the results being reported.

“These tests aren’t immediate," he said. "When somebody gets tested, you don’t get an immediate result.”

Mayor Harold Perrin said Wednesday that he has been working with Walmart on a plan to have drive-thru testing for possible cases at a store parking lot in Jonesboro.

Perrin believes the project will help get more people tested for COVID-19 as well as help officials get more accurate figures.

Region 8 News asked Dr. Speights with Gov. Asa Hutchinson relaxing restrictions on business and churches, is there a worry that cases could increase.

“I think it’s important that we remember that we try to do it as safely as possible,” Speights said. “I don’t want, you know, one of my kids, who may be sick and we don’t know it, pass it on to the elderly individual who happens to be walking in the door behind us.”

Speights believes there will be a rise in cases as mandates and directives are relaxed.

“We can expect to see more of that as people get out and about, which is why it is so important that people still adhere to wearing face masks when you're out in public,” Speights said.

Perrin said he was not frightened by Dr. Smith’s comments. Instead, he says he is optimistic that the city will respond in the manner in which it responded to the March 28 tornado and COVID-19 so far. He does not look at the city as a “hotspot."

“We have believed for two months that the numbers are higher than announced in Jonesboro, simply because we haven’t had the tests run. I don’t know that we’re necessarily a hotspot, but I do know COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere. And just because the governor has loosened restrictions doesn’t mean we don’t have to be careful,” Perrin said.

Region 8 News also asked Dr. Speights about the virus mutating, which he said happens often with viruses.

He said viruses mutate once every 15 days or so and that people should not be worried about mutations unless they are significant.

He said if it is significant, it would be widely publicized.

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