FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As COVID-19 cases increase in Arkansas, the Fayetteville City Board of Health met to discuss the impact on a local level. State data shows a steady growth of the virus and local doctors say the actual number of cases is higher than we may think.

According to Fayetteville City Health Officer, Dr. Marti Sharkey, positive test results only represent about one-seventh of actual cases spreading in the community.

The Fayetteville Board of Health is working to get an accurate representation of how many COVID-19 cases there actually are in the community, but Dr. Sharkey said it’s difficult to base community spread on hospitalizations.

“It’s really hard because the rate of hospitalizations is changing with each variant, and our immunity is changing,” said Sharkey.

With more people buying at-home tests, the board is looking at the number of at-home COVID-19 tests sold in specific areas to get an idea of the actual number of cases. They’re doing this by reaching ot to companies that sell the tests.

“We’ve been reaching out to CVS, Target, and Walmart stores in the region to see if they will share that information with us,” said Sharkey.

A concern for members of the board is how long it’s taking those with COVID-19 symptoms to test positive. It’s taking longer for people with symptoms of the new variant, BA.5, to see an accurate positive result.

“People are not testing positive for 5 to 6 days into their illness,” said Sharkey.

The good news is, vaccines are still widely available. According to Dr. Richard Taffner, with the Washington County Health Unit, teams at his unit are sending out vaccines fast.

“We’re probably pushing out 4,000 to 5,000 doses a week through the health unit,” said Taffner.

Healthcare providers just need to be sure to let their nearest health unit know if they need doses.

“They just need to give us a call, and we will hook them up,” said Taffner.