FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — New numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health showed Benton and Washington counties in the top three for new cases in the last week.

The Joe Biden Administration says with cases up, they will be providing free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for households.

The government and health experts are encouraging the community to take advantage of this because it is the peak of virus season.

Dr. Gary Berner is the chief medical officer for Community Clinic in Northwest Arkansas and says he understands people want to get back to normal, but it never hurts to still take certain precautions.

“This might be the time to add a mask back on to be a little bit more diligent with hand-washing and being protective around folks,” Dr. Berner said.

Other health experts like Breeanne Carter, the Assistant Director for Marketing and Communications, for The Pat Walker Health Clinic wants the community to understand what can be at stake.

“Our hope is that, obviously, people will follow the recommendations and that they will test if they need testing,” Carter said.

Berner says they like the idea of how accessible the at-home COVID-19 test is and want people to take advantage of them.

“Any opportunity we have like this to increase healthcare accessibility is wonderful for Northwest Arkansas and wonderful for our communities because we’re creating awareness,” Berner said.

Berner says there are some things people should know about the at-home tests.

“If they’re positive, if you even see that faint line, then you are positive. However, when the test is negative, you can’t 100% trust that test. And so, you might even need a test a couple of times,” Berner said.

Berner says we are in the peak of virus season where there are contagious viruses like the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 so knowing symptoms is important.

“Runny nose and congestion, if you’re developing that cough and certainly fever, muscle aches and chills, there’s a really solid chance that you have a viral infection that could be cold or flu,” Berner said.

Berner says to not risk your chances of battling with severe respiratory illnesses that can cause death by doing things like getting vaccinated which can lower symptoms.

“Those vaccines are helping to do, is take away the chances of that severe case where you’re in the hospital, you know, maybe even scarier than that, and then take away from the severity,” Berner said.

The Community Clinic and Pat Walker Health Clinic both encourage and offer vaccines and boosters for you to get, so you can enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season.