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COVID testing sites begin to close as Arkansas reports fewer cases

As the state is seeing fewer cases of COVID-19, several mass testing sites in our area are shutting down.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — COVID-19 cases continue to decline in the natural state and across the country. With that, a lot of testing locations have also shut down.  

“I think people can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief that the risk right now of encountering COVID-19 is lower than it has been,” said Dr. Joel Tumlinson. 

The Arkansas Department of Health reported just over 600 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, March 2, and that less than 140 people are hospitalized with the virus. Physician in outbreak response, Dr. Joel Tumlinson says they continue to monitor case numbers, but the risk of encountering COVID and getting infected is much lower than it was a month ago, but people still shouldn’t completely put their guard down. 

“We need to realize that we need to be willing to take our mask back up again when the time comes, and it’s needed right or in certain situations," he said. "You know, if you got the sniffles and you aren’t sure what it is yet and hadn’t got your test yet because you didn’t have a home test, well put your mask on if you have to go somewhere to get tested." 

Washington Regional Medical Center closed its drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic and COVID-19 hotline along with UAMS Northwest. Mercy also closed its drive-thru testing site in Bentonville earlier this month. All saying it’s because of the decline in demand for testing. 

Battalion Chief Ronnie Crupper is the clinical lead for the Northwest Arkansas Council. They opened a surge testing site in February at the Washington County Fairgrounds, but they were seeing only 15 to 20 people a day, so it closed. 

“We have a pretty strong core group here in Northwest Arkansas with the resources we have on hand that we can reactivate that if needed to," Crupper said. "We’ve got the staff, we’ve got the volunteers, the facilities and supplies too."

ADH isn’t too worried about this week's spring break causing a spike in cases either. 

“It doesn’t seem like nationally there are a lot of hot spots where you might be going on spring break," Dr. Tumlinson said. "If you look at the COVID-19 community map around the nation, most places are like Arkansas, mostly green, some areas of yellow in the moderate, very few areas in the high category." 

They are keeping their eyes on the uptick in cases in Europe and the new BA-2 subvariant of omicron

“If you did have omicron, which a lot of people in Arkansas did get sick with omicron, the other subvariant right," he said. "You know, do you have good immunity to BA-2 or not. It appears early things say yes you are unlikely to get re-infected with BA-2 but that’s very preliminary data."

ADH also reports 13 new deaths Tuesday and 14 Monday from the virus but Dr. Tumlinson says this doesn’t mean almost 30 people died in the last few days. He says reporting deaths takes time, so some of these are from as long as two months ago.  

ADH says the new Pfizer pill that treats COVID is widely available at pharmacies throughout the state. This medication does require a prescription. 

The NWA Council will be holding their final mass vaccination clinic at J.B. Hunt in Lowell on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m

RELATED: Washington Regional ending COVID drive-thru testing, hotline operations

RELATED: Washington Regional reflects on pandemic two years after first COVID patient admitted to hospital

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