New York Times lists COVID-19 daily growth rate in NWA as highest in the nation

Graphic: Courtesy, New York Times

The Fayetteville metro area is listed atop a Tuesday New York Times report on potential new COVID-19 hot spots as the region with the highest average daily growth rate of new cases in the country.

According to the report, the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area has seen a 12% average daily growth rate in cases over the last two weeks. Cases in the metro area, which includes Washington, Benton, and Madison counties, as well as McDonald County in southern Missouri, are currently on pace to double every 6.2 days.

Graphic: Courtesy, NY Times

Lauren Leatherby, a New York Times staffer, said the data was created using the metro area boundaries from the United States Census Bureau. However, the vast majority of the cases included in the data come from Washington and Benton counties, she said.

From the report:

The virus has begun cropping up in new places as it spreads across the country. To identify places that could flare up next, it’s helpful to look not just at the number of cases but how fast they are rising (we’re looking at the last two weeks here).

Growth rates are useful measures in epidemics because they tell us whether things are getting better or worse. In places where the growth rate is high but the number of cases is relatively low, a community may still have time to flatten its curve before an outbreak becomes widespread.

Communities with a lot of cases and a high growth rate are on track to have a serious problem. A high growth rate on top of a large number of cases means that a still larger number of people are on track to become ill or die.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday expressed some concern over the recent rise in cases, and said Arkansas is at “critical point” in the COVID-19 pandemic during his daily press conference.

“The direction that we go from here totally depends on the discipline and the commitment of the people of Arkansas to avoid circumstances in which they would contribute to the spread,” Hutchinson said. “So I challenge Arkansans to think this through and realize that we are trying to open up our economy and lift restrictions…but we can’t get to Phase 2 when we see a continued upward trajectory.”

The New York Times report includes data through May 25, which cited 356 recent cases of COVID-19 in the metro area in the last two weeks.

Washington County once again led the way in new cases in Hutchinson’s daily update on Tuesday with 29 new cases. Benton County was third in new cases with 16 identified since yesterday’s reporting.