Northeast Arkansas officials preparing for possible COVID-19 surge

Emergency and response officials say Northeast Arkansas is prepare for possible surge

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Several warnings have come down from Gov. Asa Hutchinson about Northeast Arkansas and its increase in COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin even released his own concerns about safety regarding COVID.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Craighead County alone has 530 active cases as of Thursday.

But, as officials are hoping this pandemic takes a downward turn, they are preparing for the worst.

“Hospitals are doing what’s called flexing right now. They are flexing areas of the hospital that are not normally used for that and they are doing a fantastic job of that," said L.T. Davis, the readiness and response coordinator for the Northeast Arkansas Healthcare Coalition. "They are creating negative air pressure rooms to be able to handle infectious disease patients.”

The coalition covers hospitals in 14 counties across Northeast Arkansas and they all are adequately prepared.

“The problem is staffing. So, you can move space if you want but if you cannot get the staffing to treat the patients, that’s a concern,” Davis said.

While doctors and nurses are still a part of the community, their health is also at risk.

That’s where Anthony Coy with the Craighead Office of Emergency Management says his office steps in.

“The main concern in our office here is to keep our first-responders safe in doing their jobs that they’re going to do, pandemic or not,” Coy said.

Both men say a top priority has been securing personal protective equipment.

“We’ve spent money buying PPE, which is getting scarce again. We’ve been able to put in a request for resources in the state office and, knock on wood, most of those have been fulfilled,” Coy said.

“Northeast has taken it a step further, we have a crew to warehouse up here where we’re going to store PPE so we can get it real-time to these hospitals, we don’t have to wait,” Davis said. “So if the hospital is needed. We’re going to get those supplies to them.”

But, as far as a surge, Davis says that, too, has been thought of.

He says alternate care sites will be able to stand even in the worst case and have all of the essentials.

“They have been pre-walk-through, pre-planned that they can handle…handle situations like this,” Davis said.

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