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Fort Smith and Fayetteville metro areas make NYT list of fastest-growing COVID-19 cases

Doctors here say the covid-19 case surge we’re seeing right now is directly related to the holidays.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — According to the New York Times, Fort Smith and Fayetteville-Springdale are among the metro areas where newly reported cases of covid-19 are rising the fastest in the nation.

It doesn’t surprise medical professionals locally that new cases of covid-19 are increasing the fastest here at home.

“I don’t think any of us are surprised by that. I think we anticipated an increase in numbers," Dr. Lee Johnson, Medical Director Fort Smith EMA, said.

Doctors here say the covid-19 case surge we see right now is directly related to the holidays.

They say this comes at the worst time in the pandemic for us here in Arkansas from a hospital capacity standpoint.

"I won’t deny that we’re stretched, but we’ve been planning for this for months now, and so we’re executing on plans that we’ve had for many months now to try to care for these patients," Dr. Paul Bean, Chief of Medical Affairs, Mercy Fort Smith, said.  

According to the latest data posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website, there are 155 positive covid-19 hospital admissions in Northwest Arkansas with 59 patients in the ICU.

In the River Valley, there are even with 205 hospital admissions and 53 people in the ICU.

“If the rate we’re seeing continue to rise, and it probably will continue to rise, but I’m hopeful we’ll get over the hump and see numbers start to decline again," Dr. Bean said.

Doctors have reason to hope with the rollout of the covid-19 vaccines underway.

“When you get a chance, when the opportunity presents itself, when it’s your turn, raise your hand and don’t be afraid to go get vaccinated," Dr. Johnson said.

It’s seen by many in the healthcare industry as our best defense against the pandemic.

Dr. Johnson and Dr. Bean both say that until it’s your turn to get vaccinated the best way to slow the surge of the coronavirus is still to wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

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