ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Natural State appears to be changing course when it comes to outdoor venues because of COVID-19 concerns among people who are fully vaccinated and unvaccinated.
On Tuesday, August 3, Downtown Bentonville Inc. canceled “Back-to-School Themed First Friday.” A statement from the organization cited, “a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and local hospitals reach capacity. State and local health agencies identify Benton County as an area with “extremely high” COVID-19 case levels.“
The event was organized in partnership with Bentonville Schools to celebrate the district’s 150th anniversary.
A planned COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the First Friday event will still be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 105 S Main Street. Walk-ins are welcome, no ID, insurance cards, or reservations are needed to get the shot.
Bentonville Farmers Market and Art Market will be restricted to only local farmers, growers, artisans and makers, and additional interactions will be limited temporarily, according to Downtown Bentonville Inc., again due to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Experience Fayetteville has canceled “August First Thursday,” August 5, due to COVID-19 concerns. A mobile health clinic offering vaccinations is also canceled.
Molly Rawn, CEO of Experience Fayetteville said, “while we are deeply disappointed that we’ve had to make this decision, we recognize that our First Thursday event draws many families to the square, including some of the most vulnerable among us, like children who are ineligible to be vaccinated for the delta variant of the coronavirus.”
EVEN LARGER GATHERINGS
Later this week, the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) in Rogers will host a Lady A concert and that is expected to draw a large crowd. Last week, July 28, nearly 10,000 concert-goers attended the Phish concert at the AMP. The cult group attracted attendees globally, according to many who attended. This was the band’s first date of its summer tour. KNWA/FOX24 has learned at least one person has COVID-like symptoms, another group of concert-goers is feeling fine — all are fully vaccinated.
In Fort Smith, the 7th Annual Peacemaker Music Festival 2021 was held from July 30 – 31 at Riverfront Park. Last year, during the pandemic, attendance was capped at 4,000, and masks were required for the outdoor event. This year, at least 8,000 tickets were sold.
The 122nd Tontitown Grape Festival is underway from August 3 – 7. This is mostly an outdoor event, but there is a spaghetti dinner and people may be in close proximity. Last year the event was canceled due to COVID-19, a first in its 100+ year history. The celebration of Italian heritage draws as many as 9,000 festival-goers, according to the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Many healthcare workers said the rising caseloads in Arkansas are worrisome. The state will continue with contact tracing, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.
The most recent General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) contact tracing report shows a dip in generated contacts from July 2020 to July 2021, 6,923 and 2,920, respectively. There was a slight increase of “% contact completed within 24 hours of receipt of contacts (removing missing phone numbers from the denominator)” at 70% in July 2021 and 63% in July 2020.
The second agency doing contact tracing is the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC). In “% of contact completed within 24 hours of receipt of contacts (removing missing phone numbers from the denominator),” compared from July 2021 to July 2020 there was a 14% increase — 76%, 62% respectively. This July there were 3,390 contacts generated and last July there were 3,326, according to an August 3 ADH report.
The Centers for Disease Control reports 70% of all U.S. adults have had at least one vaccine dose and 58.2% ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated. That is not the case in Arkansas. ADH reports 12% of the population 12 and up are partially immunized (317,261) and 42%, age 12 and up, are fully immunized (1,076,733).
There have been 6,215 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the ADH. In the Natural State, with a population of about 3 million, four of the 75 counties account for 1,825 COVID-19-related deaths — Pulaski (723), Benton (440), Washington (372), and Sebastian (290). Those four counties represent a bit more than a third of the state’s population, according to census data.
The Delta variant spreads so quickly that on July 27, the CDC recommended, “that all persons, including those who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks in indoor public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial. Findings from this investigation suggest that even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of transmission.” Arkansas, along with Louisiana, Florida, Missouri are states with the highest case rates, according to the CDC.
Last week, 72,000 kids tested positive in the U.S. for the disease, an increase of about 40,000 from the previous week. This represents 19% of all COVID-19 cases for the week ending July 29, according to the latest joint report from the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Overall, 4.2 million children have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic.