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Almost 10,000 vaccinated in Benton, Washington counties

by Alex Golden | February 6, 2021 at 7:38 a.m.
Margaret Stratton receives her covid-19 vaccine, Friday, February 5, 2021 at Apple blossom retirement community in Rogers. Forty residents at Apple Blossom retirement community received their covid-19 vaccines. Check out nwaonline.com/210206Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

About 9,620 people in Benton and Washington counties are fully vaccinated against covid-19, while another 32,827 have received the first dose, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

The two counties have a combined population of 384,234 residents 16 and older, so about 2.5% of that group have been fully vaccinated while about 8.5% are halfway there.

The Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines being used in Arkansas are approved by the federal government. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 16 and older while the Moderna vaccine is approved for people 18 and older. Both vaccines require two doses.

Pharmacies and hospitals continue to vaccinate several eligible groups, although waitlists are backed up.

Leigh Smith, office manager at Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville, said the pharmacy has about 6,000 people on a list waiting for the vaccine. The pharmacy is allowing anyone in the state's Phases 1-A, 1-B or 1-C to place their name on the list.

Residents in Phase 1-A, which includes health care workers and nursing home staff and residents, and two Phase 1-B groups, school employees and people 70 and older, are eligible to receive vaccines now.

Medical Arts Pharmacy has given about 250 vaccines a day and doesn't have any mass vaccination events planned, Smith said. The pharmacy hasn't been told if it will receive an increase in doses.

More than 370,000 doses had been given in Arkansas as of Friday, according to the Health Department. The data includes first and second doses.

All nursing home residents in the state have been offered at least a first dose, said Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association.

Apple Blossom Retirement Community in Rogers started vaccinating about 40 of its 110 residents Friday afternoon, Jamie Higginbottom of the facility said. Retirement communities aren't in the same category as nursing homes, but many have vaccinated residents in Phase 1-B.

School districts in the region began vaccinating employees about two weeks ago.

Springdale has given first doses to about 1,575 employees on-site, including 150 people this week, according to Trent Jones, spokesman. Springdale schools employ 2,952 people.

Rogers, which has hosted at least one on-site vaccination event, has had 407 faculty and staff members receive vaccines through Mercy Health System and Debbie's Family Pharmacy, according to Ashley Siwiec, spokeswoman.

"We have had several staff members receive their vaccine through other providers, but we do not have a definite number as they did not go through us. We anticipate that about 600 more staff members would like to receive it when supplies are available," according to Siwiec. The district has 2,063 employees.

"We did not get any doses for this week, and we do not have any first dose clinics planned at this time," according to Janet Schwanhausser, deputy superintendent at Bentonville Public Schools. "We have been able to provide vaccinations to approximately 600 of our 2,300 employees."

School employees are eligible to receive vaccines at local pharmacies. The School District doesn't collect data on how many of its employees have received vaccines off-site, according to Schwanhausser.

Nearly 1,200 of Fayetteville Public Schools' 1,463 employees have received the first dose of the vaccine, an increase of about 200 doses from the week before, according to Alan Wilbourn, spokesman for the district.

Springdale and Rogers school districts had the two highest active covid-19 case numbers of all school districts in the state as of Thursday, according to the Health Department. Springdale had 113 active cases, and Rogers had 98 active cases. Bentonville had the fifth-highest number of active cases with 89, and Fayetteville had the sixteenth-highest with 28 active cases. Active cases are those that have not recovered or died.

Washington Regional Medical System had given more than 2,800 first doses to people in the state's Phase 1-B as of Thursday, an increase of about 700 from a week before, according to Natalie Hardin, spokeswoman. The system has given approximately 3,000 first doses and 2,500 second doses to people in Phase 1-A.

Northwest Health System, which has five hospitals in the region, had given about 12,000 doses, an increase of about 3,000 from the week before, according to Christina Bull, spokeswoman for the system. Mercy Health System has given 6,344 doses, an increase of about 750 from the week before, according to Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman. The data for each system includes first and second doses and includes people in Phases 1-A and 1-B.

Covid-19 cases in Northwest Arkansas increased about 1,600 in the past week, according to the Health Department.

Washington County had 28,247 cumulative cases Friday, compared to 27,530 on Jan. 29. The county had 1,120 active cases Friday including 705 confirmed and 415 probable cases.

Benton County had 25,781 cumulative cases Friday compared to 24,909 on Jan. 29. The county had 1,307 active cases Friday including 884 confirmed and 423 probable cases.

Hospitals in Northwest Arkansas had a combined total of 60 patients in their covid-19 units as of Thursday, 19 fewer than a week before, according to a joint statement from the region's largest health care organizations via Martine Pollard, spokeswoman for Mercy Health System. Hospitalizations in the region have decreased over the past few weeks after reaching a record with 140 patients at one time on Jan. 8.

Both antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests are used to test for covid-19. Antigen tests produce faster results, are generally only used on people with symptoms of the virus and have a higher chance of giving false-negative results. Antigen and most PCR tests are done via nasal swabs.

A total of 184,218 PCR tests and 19,353 antigen tests have been done on Benton County residents, while 197,961 PCR tests and 33,838 antigen tests have been done on Washington County residents, according to the Health Department.

Nurse Brenna Neumann (right) talks to George Engle (center) before administering his covid-19 vaccine, Friday, February 5, 2021 at Apple blossom retirement community in Rogers. Forty residents at Apple Blossom retirement community received their covid-19 vaccines. Check out nwaonline.com/210206Daily/ for today's photo gallery. 
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Nurse Brenna Neumann (right) talks to George Engle (center) before administering his covid-19 vaccine, Friday, February 5, 2021 at Apple blossom retirement community in Rogers. Forty residents at Apple Blossom retirement community received their covid-19 vaccines. Check out nwaonline.com/210206Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Nurse Brenna Neumann (third from left) administers a covid-19 vaccine to Gail Cawsey (right) as Tracy Schnick (from left) and Mary Avila process vaccine recipients, Friday, February 5, 2021 at Apple blossom retirement community in Rogers. Forty residents at Apple Blossom retirement community received their covid-19 vaccines. Check out nwaonline.com/210206Daily/ for today's photo gallery. 
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Nurse Brenna Neumann (third from left) administers a covid-19 vaccine to Gail Cawsey (right) as Tracy Schnick (from left) and Mary Avila process vaccine recipients, Friday, February 5, 2021 at Apple blossom retirement community in Rogers. Forty residents at Apple Blossom retirement community received their covid-19 vaccines. Check out nwaonline.com/210206Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
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Fast fact

Groups of residents in Phase 1-B who aren’t yet be eligible to receive the vaccine include food and agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, public transportation workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government workers. The state has estimated those groups will be able to begin getting the vaccine in February.

Phase 1-C, which the state expects to be able to begin receiving vaccines in April, includes people age 65-69, people age 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and people who work in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing, information technology, communications, energy, media, public safety and public health.

Source: Arkansas Department of Health

Alex Golden may be reached by email at agolden@nwadg.com.

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