Written by Elizabeth Dillard and Gabriel Huff.
COVID-19 numbers have been decreasing across Arkansas, White County and Harding’s campus. As of Wednesday, Feb. 24, the number of undergraduate active cases dropped to one off campus and five on campus, and the number of people quarantined was 24. No graduate students were in isolation or quarantine but two employees were, also as of Feb. 24.
Arkansas’ s winter storms caused testing sites to close last week, producing speculations of whether the decrease in cases could be attributed to the closures. According to KUAR, a public radio in Little Rock, Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he credited the decrease to last week’s sequence of events.
The number of active cases in Arkansas dropped by 916 to 7,323. In White County, there were 4,668 confirmed cases and 4,521 recovered cases as of Feb. 23.
“Compared with a national peak of 314,093 cases reported to CDC on Jan. 8, 2021, the daily number of cases (in Arkansas) has declined by 69%,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website reported Jan. 17. “The current 23% decrease in the 7-day average number of daily cases reported also provides an encouraging sign of recent progress.”
The exact reason for the decrease is not tied to one specific event or cautionary tactic. Director of Student Health Services Mary Darden said there are a variety of factors contributing to the decline, such as the distribution of vaccines and people taking precautions.
“Last week, in just here in Searcy and on campus, of course I think we had a decrease because clinics were closed [and] people weren’t able to get out and get tested if they needed to,” Darden said. “I think that would probably influence a small amount of numbers. It probably wouldn’t influence the whole overall picture.”
Darden said coronavirus spikes are still possible and can occur due to the new variant strains of the virus appearing or if people relax in following CDC guidelines.
Dean of Students Zach Neal said he is hopeful about the future, and while he encourages everyone to continue to do their part in keeping everyone safe, he does not expect any more events to cause a serious spike in cases.
“I am very thankful for the lower numbers,” Neal said. “I’m not sure one specific precaution or reason could be given full credit, but I do feel the holistic approach has proven successful.”
However, Darden said she still cautions against becoming too comfortable and slacking off in regard to the regulations.
“Students on campus should continue to follow CDC and campus recommendations,” Darden said. “I think letting your guard down by not wearing masks or physical distancing are the biggest contributors COVID spikes.”