Fayetteville health board issues updated guidelines as state virus cases rise

Source: Arkansas Department of Health

The city’s Board of Health has issued updated guidelines on how to help limit the spread of COVID-19 as active statewide cases approach 15,000.

The board suggests residents should limit all gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two households, including gatherings within their homes.

The new guidelines suggest not only wearing masks and social distancing when in public, but also at gatherings in homes and even when outside at home.

The recommendations are not part of the city’s regulations and won’t carry any penalties if they’re ignored, but board members stressed the importance of following the guidelines to help flatten the curve.

Marti Sharkey, the city’s public health officer, said research shows the virus is spreading through home gatherings when people from separate households aren’t wearing masks, so it’s important for people to take the same precautions at home as they do when they’re in public.

“We’re all pretty good when we go to Walmart,” Sharkey said. “But when we get together with our neighbors and friends we feel safe, which is actually when we’re spreading (the virus).”

Sharkey said with such dramatic increases in the number of new cases leading to record-high hospitalizations this week, local healthcare capacity is strained leading up to the holiday season.

“We all must do what we can to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus as we head into the winter months,” she said.

Active statewide cases reached 14,491 on Thursday, which is an 85% increase over the same time last month when active cases were at 7,839. In the previous three months, active cases ranged from about 5,700 to 6,700.

Locally, Washington County currently has 1,160 active cases and Benton County has 1,319.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the cumulative total of cases reached 130,318 on Friday, which is an increase of 2,312 since Thursday. It’s the largest single-day rise since the pandemic began. The state also reported an additional 21 hospitalizations for a new record-high count of 826 people currently hospitalized with the virus.