Director of Miller County OEM provides commentary on comparisons of COVID-19 and influenza illnesses in Miller County

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Joe Bennett, the director of the Miller County office of emergency management, provided commentary Tuesday on the comparison of COVID-19 and cumulative influenza illnesses in Miller County and the state of Arkansas.

The director used material from Avi Schiffmann’s coronavirus tracker, the Arkansas Department of Health, the department of health’s COVID-19 page, and a Google search for the term “flu shot.”

In Bennett’s disclaimer, he mentions that determining the results of COVID-19 and influenza testing in Miller & Bowie County and the Texarkana area are difficult because of Arkansas and Texas each reporting cases differently. Bennett’s commentary only reflects related cases of COVID-19 and influenza in Miller County and the state of Arkansas. Bennett writes that, “currently, there is no reliable data of reporting influenza related cases within Miller County, AR.”

Bennett’s report continues:

It is difficult to determine how many actual COVID-19 tests are performed daily in MILLER COUNTY
due to the individual testing within the patient care facilities in Arkansas and Texas as well as drive thru clinics. However, on average for April 2020, there are 14 COVID-19 tests administered daily which equates to 1.5 positives every three days with 12.25 negatives. There have been nine recoveries of
positive cases and no deaths for the month of April so far. It is important to note some of the positive
cases originate from places of employment in Texas by persons who reside in Arkansas. For this review of Miller County, the data is compiled from investigations within the Miller County Emergency
Operations Center and DOES NOT reflect the data provided by the ADH.

State COVID-19 data compiled from 4/1-4/20 appear to show a downward trend of new cases each week until the Monday following a weekend where they tend to spike for that new week. This is undoubtedly the result of total tests not counted for that previous week. According to data compiled for the State of Arkansas, it appears there is a reduction in new cases as each week continues. On average, there are 62 new cases which test positive each day. That average is down about 22% from previous weeks.

Beginning April 1st, the statewide death rate ranged from 1-2 per day until April 11-16 where the
statewide death rate increased to 4.5 daily on some days within that week. April 17-20 averaged just one death per day statewide. Most COVID-19 related deaths occurred in specific Counties in Arkansas.
Recoveries fluctuate daily but on average there are 44 statewide recoveries daily. Recoveries range
anywhere from 16 to 110 each day. Again, this data is specific only to Arkansas.

The outbreak response/epidemiology report for Influenza related cases within Arkansas for the time
period of September 29, 2019 until April 11, 2020 suggests there were 36,180 positive influenza cases
reported to the Arkansas Dept of Health. Please note that reported cases reflect only a portion of the
actual numbers of flu cases in the state since it only requires reports of deaths, hospitalizations and
outbreaks and it’s presumed there are many more people actually affected than the report shows.

 

Arkansas has reported a total of 118 influenza related deaths including three pediatric deaths this season. That equates to 19 Influenza deaths per month so far this season (Oct-April).

For the month of April in Arkansas there have been 32 COVID-19 related deaths as of April 21st, 2020.
At this rate it is projected that COVID-19 deaths will double Influenza related deaths within Arkansas
during the month of April. Keep in mind the COVID related deaths in Arkansas are not averaged since
data compiled does not include multiple months as does Influenza related deaths; therefore, this
assessment is not scientific, but it does represent actual cases and suggests a trend. Epidemiologists
expect resurgent waves of infection could last well into 2022. Infectious disease experts project about 1% of people will die which is about 10 times the rate of the typical flu.

This review suggests the importance of controlling the COVID-19 Pandemic by practicing safe hygiene
routines and continued social distancing even after the pandemic has passed. Once a COVID-19 vaccine is introduced, the future of this virus should be more concerning than Influenza outbreaks.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates a total of 24,000 flu deaths have occurred nationwide
this season. While unknown, it is suggested that so far, there are between 39,000 and 43,000 deaths so far from COVID-19 within the United States.

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