ARKANSAS, USA — It's been a year to the day since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, our day-to-day lives have changed in terms of how we go to work, school and spend time together.
Arkansas reported its first COVID-19 case on March 11, 2020. Since that day, the Arkansas Department of Health reports there have been 325,700 positive cases confirmed in the state and over 5,000 deaths caused by the virus.
There is hope with local cases declining and COVID-19 vaccines becoming widely available for Arkansans looking to get the shot. But doctors 5NEWS have spoken with are saying we're not out of the woods just yet.
“I don’t think we’re through with the virus, but I think we’re through with the worst of it," Dr. David Ratcliff, Chief Medical Officer for Washington Regional, said. "No one has a crystal ball. It’s possible this virus could mutate and become much more serious than what it has been even over the last year."
From restrictions on large gatherings, a state-wide mask mandate, and billions funneled into the state's unemployment program, Arkansas leaders have done what they can to stop the spread of the virus and lessen the havoc it's caused on local economies.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is looking to possibly rescind the state's mask mandate at the end of March 2021 if cases continue to drop and vaccines become more accessible. Though, there has been a variant of the virus detected in the state.
The pandemic peaked in the state at the beginning of 2021, with a record-high 1,371 Arkansas hospitalized due to COVID-19 on Jan. 11, 2021.
The first confirmed COVID-19 case in Arkansas was reported in Pine Bluff. Today (March 11) at 1:30 p.m., Hutchinson is holding an anniversary event in the city to look back on the last year and to commemorate the lives lost.
The governor announced that the Forestry Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture has donated 10,000 oak saplings for Arkansans to receive free of charge to plant in memory of lost loved ones during the pandemic.
“Our deepest sympathy is extended to the Arkansas families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19,” said Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “We are deeply honored to provide a remembrance to these families on behalf of the State of Arkansas.”
The seedlings will be available at the following local locations through March 24:
- Johnson County: #1 Smokey Lane, Clarksville, AR. 479-754-2701
- Washington County: 2780 N. Garland, Fayetteville, AR. 479-632-0209
Families are asked to call to arrange a time to pick up the seedlings. Forestry Division office locations will be taking calls and assisting individuals with seedling pick up Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Information on the Memorial Seedlings donation is available at https://www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-resource-information/memorial-seedlings-available-to-honor-the-memory-of-loved-ones-lost-due-to-covid-19/.