YELL COUNTY (KNWA/KFTA) — A Northwest Arkansas mom was beyond devastated to learn her grandmother died devoid of family at a nursing home in Danville, Arkansas, early Sunday, July 12.

“She wasn’t the Bingo playing grandma. She was tiny and quiet, yet strong and stubborn,” said Jennifer Hartman describing her grandmother, Irene Hawkins, 92.

The family got the call about her death at 2 a.m. on Sunday and there was a visitation/viewing the same day. On Monday, a graveside service was held at Salem Cemetery in Plainview, in Yell County. Only close family, all masked, were on hand to bid their final farewell.

Hawkins tested positive for the virus at the end of June. She started declining on the 14th day and died two days later at Mitchell’s Nursing Home, where she had lived since 2018.

Hawkins and her husband of 53 years lived in Plainview. He died about 20 years ago, and she lived alone ever since, said Hartman.



Visiting Hawkins at the nursing home was halted as of mid-March because of the pandemic. Prior to the shutdown, Hawkins’ children would regularly visit.

Hawkins was admitted to Chamber Hospital three times, March, May, and June, for various problems that included dehydration. “We saw a decline in her health after the lock down,” said Hartman adding that it was a red-flag for her.

“When the pandemic was over we were going to move her,” said Hartman. “She had dementia and was always quiet. But as the pandemic progressed, her health declined.”

In mid-June, before being released from the hospital, Hawkins was tested for COVID-19. Her test was negative, and she was able to return to the nursing home and put into a two-week isolation per nursing home procedure. While in isolation, she was retested and that test came back positive. “When staff became infected, they tested the whole nursing home and her test came back positive,” according to Hartman.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services has a waiver that allows COVID-positive staff to work with COVID-positive residents if there is a staff shortage crisis, but the employee(s) can’t have symptoms.


In less than seven days, seven deaths have happened at Mitchell’s Nursing Home in Danville. Currently, 74 residents and 45 employees are infected with the virus. The facility has 105 licensed beds, 90 are occupied, and it’s classified as a skilled nursing facility. The latest inspection report, April 18, 2019, indicated some deficiencies mainly in the kitchen area. In 2017, the facility had one infection related deficiency.

As for the recent deaths, owner Robert Mitchell said, “I am doing public daily service announcements with the families of the residents to let them know what is going on. All the families are very well informed.”


Yell County is a COVID hotspot. It’s a small rural county with a population of 21,341. They currently have an extremely high COVID positivity rate with not a mask mandate in site.

In Yell County there is the town of Danville, population 2,400 as of 2019.

It is home to the Wayne Farm Poultry plant which has had multiple COVID outbreaks without closing.

Relatives of people who work at Wayne Farms work at a small nursing home there — Mitchell’s Nursing Home. It has a capacity to hold 105 residents. Currently, 7 residents have died from COVID, my grandmother being one of them.

As of Monday, 74 residents and 45 staff are COVID positive.

They have informed families that a waiver has been signed with the Arkansas Department of Health that allows the asymptomatic workers to continue working in the facility with the positive residents, the same facility that has healthy residents.

And a Danville school, which is located between the poultry plant and the nursing home, is slated to start back next month?

— Jennifer Hartman, concerned NWA resident
Irene Hawkins, 92, died Sunday, July 12, 2020.

Hartman arrived for her grandmother’s funeral. “I got to to view her on Sunday and did the graveside on Monday,” she said.


There are 34 active COVID cases at the poultry facility, 151 employees have recovered , according to the ADH poultry business report from July, 10.

Of 17 infected facilities Wayne Farms is in the top three, Tyson has the other two top spots.


  • Tyson of Rogers, Elm St., Benton County: 76 active, 180 recovered
  • Tyson, Berry St., Springdale, Washington County: 53 active, 263 recovered
  • Wayne Farms, Danville, Yell County: 34 active, 151 recovered
  • Tyson, Clarksville, Johnson County: 25 active, 89 recovered
  • Tyson, Olrich St. Rogers, Benton County: 21 active, 64 recovered

Yell County has four public school districts that are expected to be back in session August 24, 2020:

  • Danville School District: There are three schools, elementary, middle school and high school. About 880 students are enrolled.
  • Dardanelle School District: This district has four schools: high school, middle school, intermediate school, and a primary school. In total there are more than 2,100 students.
  • Two Rivers School District: The district was formed in 2004 by consolidating the Fourche Valley School District, Ola School District, Perry–Casa School District, and Plainview–Rover School District. There are about 900+ students. It’s located in Plainview.
  • Western Yell County School District: formed in 1985 by consolidating the Belleville and Havana School Districts. Located in Havana, this district serves Belleville, Chickalah Mountain, and Waveland. There are 371 students.

Poultry industry in Arkansas: 434 total active COVID-19 cases at 17 plants

14 nursing home deaths in less than a week; COVID-19 related

A CLOSER LOOK: waivers for healthcare providers during COVID-19