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Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Fort Smith leaders give update on COVID-19 in the River Valley

A Fort Smith panel of city leaders and the healthcare community gave a COVID-19 and holiday preparedness update today.

A Fort Smith panel of city leaders and the healthcare community gave a COVID-19 and holiday preparedness update today.  

In Sebastian County, more than 800 people currently have COVID -19 and in Crawford County more than 300. Fort Smith Mayor George McGill says it’s disturbing that almost 120 people in the River Valley have lost their lives to this virus. 

“It’s imperative that each one of us as citizens and residents of the River Valley do what we can on an individual basis and how we handle this crisis,” McGill said. 

Sebastian County Health Officer, Dr. Bryan Clardy fears if people have gatherings and don’t follow the CDC guidelines thanksgiving could be a super spreader event. He knows everyone wants to see their family, but now is not the time to let your guard down. 

“They want one positive right moment out of the last nine months that they haven’t been able to have but I’m afraid will happen is we’ll have Thanksgiving, we’ll have a big spike in cases five to seven days after that and we’ll have funerals for Christmas,” he said. 

Dr. Clardy says both Mercy Hospital and Baptist Health have space for patients, the problem is staffing. Healthcare workers who get exposed and have to quarantine spreading workers thin. He says this causes reduced levels of care. Normally there would be a two to one staffing ratio in the ICU, now they may have a three to one or four to one. 

“Your intensive patients who require the most care aren’t getting what they would ordinarily have in a non-pandemic non-emergency situation. We do have to alter our standards of care somewhat in any kind of disaster and crisis and we’re starting to see that possibility looming in the horizon,” he said. 

The Sebastian County health officer says 30% of all deaths in the county have been attributed to COVID-19.