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Arkansas hospital warns of ‘serious public health emergency’ as COVID-19 cases climb

Coronavirus

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas hospital has issued a statement warning of a “serious public health emergency” as COVID-19 cases rise in the northwest part of the state.

“It is important for our community to understand that we are not seeing more hospitalizations simply because more testing is being done.”

Birch G. Wright, MPA
Chief Operating Officer and Administrator, Washington Regional Medical System

In a statement released to sister station KNWA/FOX24, Washington Regional Medical System officials noted a 170% increase in the number of COVID-19 tests performed at its screening clinics, a 156% increase in calls to the Washington Regional COVID-19 Hotline and a 350% increase in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“It is important for our community to understand that we are not seeing more hospitalizations simply because more testing is being done,” Birch G. Wright, Washington Regional’s COO said in a statement. “We are seeing more hospitalizations because more people in our area are being infected with the virus.”

Meanwhile, Arkansas will enter Phase Two of lifting restrictions currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic on June 15, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at his daily press conference on Wednesday.

“Americans are on the move, and they can’t be tied down, they can’t be restrained,” Hutchinson said. He affirmed on Wednesday that Arkansas would move together as a whole despite the spike in cases in Northwest Arkansas.

Washington Regional’s COVID-19 clinic has reopened in Fayetteville to address the increased demand for screening and testing.

“This clinic is dedicated to COVID-19 screening and testing of individuals who do not have any symptoms but who may have had a direct exposure to someone who is COVID-19 positive,” Wright said.

On June 9, Washington Regional opened a second inpatient unit to care for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. The unit can treat 38 COVID-19 inpatients with the ability to expand capacity as necessary.

Washington Regional wants the community to be assured that Washington Regional is prepared for this surge. Over the past several months, our team has planned and prepared for this pandemic and we have the staff, supplies and resources to effectively respond while continuing our customary health care operations. We have the capacity to safely provide care for all in our community – not just those who require hospitalization due to COVID-19.

Birch G. Wright, MPA
Chief Operating Officer and Administrator, Washington Regional Medical System

“We believe it is of great importance that every member of our community hear the message that it is critically important to take the recent surge in COVID-19 cases seriously,” Wright added. “In the early days of the pandemic, we saw a tremendous outpouring of support for health care workers. Here is what the community can do to help us now – wear a mask when out in public, practice social distancing, regularly wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, and stay home when you are sick.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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