JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - As the number of COVID-19 cases in Jonesboro and Craighead County continues to rise, Mayor Harold Perrin is urging residents and visitors to be on “heightened alert.”
On Wednesday, the county led the state in recording 66 new cases of the coronavirus, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Craighead had 488 active cases as of Thursday, with a cumulative total of 3,774 infections. Since the pandemic began, 32 people have died.
“I know people are stressed already, and I feel for everyone. But this is going to be with us for quite some time,” Perrin was quoted as saying in a news release.
As one who is undergoing chemotherapy, Perrin knows first-hand the risk COVID-19 poses to those who are immuno-compromised.
“I am very focused on COVID awareness in my current condition, and I am especially focused after seeing our numbers climb remarkably over the past week,” he said. “We have to make the changes that allow us to live our lives at the best possible way.”
Perrin added that the numbers indicate people are not making the necessary changes to protect themselves and others from the virus.
“Any inability to adapt will make our experience with COVID harder and longer,” he said.
Emergency Management Director Anthony Coy echoed Perrin’s concerns during Monday’s bi-weekly county pandemic update, calling the recent spike in cases “disheartening and frightening, but not unexpected.”
Dr. Shane Speights, Dean of NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, warned the state could see even higher numbers as flu season settles in.
While influenza creates an annual rise in deaths, COVID-19 has already taken three times as many lives as a typical flu season.
“This is much more contagious than the flu, but it works the same way as far as when people get together,” Speights said. “And in the winter, people tend to gather indoors with less ability to keep windows open.”
Right now, Speights said hospitalizations are high, but he fears for the doctors and nurses.
“I think all hospitals have capacity. My concern is staffing,” he said. “A lot of nurses are younger or have children, and if they have to quarantine, I see a domino effect. That would be my concern as we get more and more into this.”
While the Jonesboro Police Department has reported “good behavior” overall, Chief Rick Elliott said people need to be “extra cautious now that we are a hotspot.”
He said reports of “super-spreader” events are a concern and urges anyone with concerns about gatherings of large crowds or businesses not following state guidelines to contact the JPD at 870-935-5553 or the ADH in Jonesboro at 870-933-4585.