White House Task Force: Much of Northeast Arkansas in COVID-19 “red zone”

White House Task Force: Much of Northeast Arkansas in COVID-19 “red zone”

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Ten Northeast Arkansas counties, including Craighead and Greene, are in the “red zone” for new COVID-19 cases, according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by ABC News.

Counties in the red zone include:

  • Craighead
  • Greene
  • Mississippi
  • Miller
  • Independence
  • Lawrence
  • Carroll
  • Jackson
  • Poinsett
  • Arkansas
  • Baxter
  • Izard
  • Clay
  • Fulton
  • Monroe
  • Prairie

Craighead has the dual distinction of being one of three counties in the last three weeks with the highest number of cases, following Pulaski and Washington. The three counties combined represent 24.9% of all new cases in the state.

The White House task force also has designated the towns of Jonesboro, Paragould, Blytheville, and Mountain Home as metro red zones. The only other city on that list is Texarkana.

According to the report, during the week of Oct. 10-16, the state reported 6,226 -new COVID-19 cases at a rate of 206 per 100,000 residents. That is a 12% increase from the previous week. The rate of infection per 100,000 is also nearly twice the national rate of 117 per 100,000.

Arkansas also record 135 deaths last week for a rate of 4.5 per 100,000. That is three times the national rate of 1.5 deaths.

For those counties in the red zone, the White House task force recommends public and private gatherings should be “as small as possible and, optimally, not extend beyond immediate family.”

Among the task force’s other recommendations:

  • Arkansas must continue the strong mitigation efforts statewide. Mitigation efforts should continue to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private, and ensuring flu immunizations
  • Keep testing levels high across the state, particularly in red and orange counties, to quickly identify positives so they can isolate themselves and prevent ongoing transmission.
  • Fully deploy Abbott BinaxNOW tests statewide in sentinel sites and populations; weekly surveillance data will proactively identify emerging hotspots where immediate action should be taken to stop the spread within communities. All antigen tests must be reported with both the number of positive results and total tests conducted; positives must be reported as COVID cases. Repeat testing of individuals as surveillance with confirmation of all positives with nucleic acid testing is the optimal use of antigen tests.
  • With over 40% of nursing homes reporting at least one COVID positive staff member, work with nursing homes to trace exposures of positive staff to decrease introduction of community transmission to nursing homes.
  • In rural communities, highlight increasing hospital constraints so residents can do their part to slow the spread.
  • Ensure university students continue their mitigation behaviors to ensure no further outbreaks on or off campus as
  • symptomatic cases and cases identified through surveillance testing decline.
  • Encourage use of retail establishments that are enforcing mitigation efforts.
  • Provide specific mitigation messaging to individuals 65 years and older through senior citizen networks.
  • Ensure all hospitals have access to antivirals and antibodies and ensure early use as treatment (within 48 hours).

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