Public urged to wear masks

With the rise of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas and Drew County, officials have been urging citizens and residents of the three W’s: wear a mask, wash hands and watch the distance to stay at least 6 feet away  from others. As the economy and the state continue to open back up, the rise in cases makes following social distancing guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other public health organizations and officials, more important than ever. 
In Arkansas, the total number of cases as of the morning of Wednesday, June 24, is 16,678. A large increase from the beginning months of the pandemic and according to Arkansas officials during the daily COVID-19 press releases, our state’s first wave is just now beginning to hit with predictions of mass transmission by the predicted peak which will hit in September, according to a UAMS predictive model shown at the Tuesday, June 23, press conference. 
The trends of those infected seem to be showing what the rest of the United States seeing, more infections and transmissions in the 25 to 64 age group. While many have cited the age group for spreading the virus, it is the age group that by and large are essential workers and the ones taking care of elderly relatives. 
According to Judith Malmgren, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s epidemiology department, a marked shift to younger COVID-19 cases in Washington were observed in March and April in a study she co-authored that was posted to a preprint server and hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Malmgren said she, too, has noticed large numbers of young adults gathering in large crowds. But beyond that, people involved in essential work are more likely to be 20- to 39-year-olds, she said. The 25 to 64 age group accounts for a total of 66% of the cases in Arkansas.
“They’re also more likely to have interaction with the public, for example, packing your groceries at the grocery store,” Malmgren said. “It’s just the way that COVID-19 is spread, human to human, face to face.”
Because of this, it is more important than ever to work to minimize the risk as the Nation tries to achieve more normality after the lockdown. 
To protect yourself and others, the Arkansas Department of Health recommends:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Practice physical distancing. Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick, by keeping at least 6 feet between you and others.
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, seek testing. Testing is available in many locations, including ADH Local Health Units.
Wear a cloth mask when in public and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
While the recommendations set forth by public health officials have been left as recommendations, according to Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas Department of Health Secretary, the reason Arkansas residents are being given recommendations and not directives is because studies show that recommendations are followed better than directives with no bite. During the  Tuesday, June 23, statewide COVID-19 brief, Smith stressed the importance of following the recommendations and gently reminding others to do the same. 
“Everybody needs to take personal responsibility,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in an ABC interview. “If we do those things, that will replicate a lot of what a lockdown does.
“But the challenge I see,” McDeavitt added, is that “some people are taking it to heart, and others are acting like they’re not in the middle of the worst global pandemic of this century.”
For local physician Michael Fakouri, the issue is one of respect to his patients and associates. 
“The mask is protective to others, not the wearer,” said Fakouri. “When I sit down with patients I am wearing my mask to protect you from me. It is respectful (to wear a mask), you don’t know who you will be around and if they are susceptible.”
Fakouri continued by pointing out that by everyone wearing a mask, the virus won’t be spread as readily throughout the community. 
“Wear the mask. It is the safest way to handle it,” said Fakouri. “I hate it, I hate it, but at the end of the day, it is where we are.”
Drew County has a cumulative total of 39 positive cases, 14 active cases, an increase of seven since last week, 24 recovered cases, one death and 1,147 negative tests reported.

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