Blytheville gives update on COVID-19, hotline number available

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Monday afternoon, Mayor James Sanders, Mississippi County Judge John Nelson, along with the American Red Cross and other Blytheville leaders and healthcare professionals, held a press release updating information on COVID-19.

Mayor Sanders said, “Although these times are frightful we must remain calm and understand that it is you that can assist this community and it is you that can help reduce the idea of the pandemic in our community. Our healthcare professionals are doing all they can to work with our government resources to assist and aid you.”

Mississippi County has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19 and as of March 24, 206 cases have been confirmed across the state of Arkansas.

Sanders said, “Counties around us including Lawrence, Crittenden, Craighead, Poinsett and Greene County have also had confirmed cases. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s about ‘when’ and it’s going to be up to you to help prevent the spread of this.”

“There have been people asking about whether or not our police officers are arresting people as they gather, the answer is no. However, there has been a proclamation made by our governor with regards to this and this proclamation does state that we should limit our social gatherings to ten people or less,”said Mayor Sanders.

Sanders added, “There are laws and rules that have been put in place to aid law enforcement in any event that there are any social gatherings or restaurants that are open, our law enforcement will be going over there to them and explaining to them the order that the city of Blytheville has received from the State of Arkansas upon the governor's request.”

Last week, the mayor directed a meeting to establish a city coronavirus telephone hotline number which is 870-824-2762.

“This hotline to date has been manned solely by the Blytheville Police Department. The hotline was not advertised as a 24/7, 365 number. It is not an emergency number, if you need medical help please don’t call the hotline. The hotline is if you have questions so that you can call hospitals or places to get the proper information. The hotline times are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson.

Jennifer Adcock of Great River Medical Center stated, “Currently the COVID-19 virus is still located in several counties in Arkansas, Mississippi County has not had any confirmed cases. We will continue to monitor through the State and report to them any possibilities we have for anyone in this general area. We are currently still asking that you please call into healthcare professionals offices and let them know if you suspect or start to have symptoms of COVID-19 such as temperature, cough, shortness of breath, some advance up to chest pains due to a pneumonia type ailment. We ask that if you have traveled or been in any place with known confirmed cases that you please notify our healthcare workers ahead of time so that those persons can eliminate the possibility of contaminating or having that virus pass on. If you do cough please use a tissue, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. At this time we are trying to contain and monitor and do the best we can with testing those persons that meet that 'persons under investigations' criteria that the state has brought forth. The CDC and Arkansas Department of Health is full of valuable information and are great resources for you should you need them.”

Sanders said that an ordinance has been put in place to protect city workers who are first responders in the epidemic.

“In this we have prepared for them in the event of contamination, to take off and self quarantine themselves. It is up to us first responders to be safe, which is why the city of Blytheville has limited contact within our municipal building. It’s not that we don’t want to communicate with you, it is just that we want to be able to best serve you.”

Sanders continued, “We need to look out for our most vulnerable, and our children, grandparents, or even those that have health problems are who we need to be mindful of. We need to be mindful that any contact that we get, even if we may not have symptoms, can spread.”

Mayor Sanders mentioned, “People have asked about whether or not hospitals are prepared or what about the ventilators and things that are being held on a federal level. If we reduce our physical contact to the point where we don’t contaminate others, then a lot of those things won’t be necessary. It boils down to minimizing your contact, washing your hands, understanding that when you go into a place you have to be conscious of this spread.”

Chief Thompson explained that if anyone needs access to the Police Department, they should call first. If any person is in need of a police report they are asked to do it via email request.

Thompson also stated that staff-wise there is a contingency plan in order should it become necessary.

“We want you to know that there is a contingency plan to restructure our shifts and add additional personnel from other divisions to reinforce our patrol division and emergency responses, should it become necessary,” said Thompson.

Thompson added, “The mayor and the city have not enacted any business restrictions, they have not taken any type of directive for the police department to do anything to our local businesses, other than going out to the business community to make sure that our local businesses are going by the guidelines that are established by the government.”

Thompson said that the Blytheville Police Department has not visited any funeral homes, churches, nor have they disrupted any funerals or religious services.

“We have faith in our local funeral directors that they will stay within the guidelines that they have been suggested. I am a firm believer in the constitution of the separation of church and state and we have not and will not violate that. The Blytheville Police Department has not issued any citations to anyone, we did post information on our Facebook page, should anyone violate we gave the statute number and the content of it so that each person can make informed decisions,” said Thompson.

Thompson added, “Local healthcare professionals have as a group supported any steps we may take to restrict things. They are concerned that the general public is not taking this seriously. They see the traffic on the roads, they have said that they would support any efforts that the city may take to restrict things if we need to.”

American Red Cross Northeast Arkansas Executive Director Pamela Knapp-Carver stressed the importance of continuing to donate blood if healthy.

“We have had over 6,000 blood drives cancelled nationwide, we have lost nearly 200,000 units of blood. COVID-19 doesn’t take away the emergency surgeries that need to happen.”

Carver said that there will be a blood-drive Thursday from 12:30-5:30p.m at the Holiday Inn in Blytheville.

“The American Red Cross is doing everything we can to ensure we are practicing every safety measure we can, beds will be spaced out six feet or more to comply with social distancing, every donor's temperature is being taken before we even check you in, and if you have a temp we will have to send you home. We are sanitizing on top of sanitizing and being very careful. If you are healthy and feeling well please give blood, we need every type right now,” said Carver.

Toward the end of the meeting, an update was released by the Arkansas Secretary of Health, Dr. Nathaniel Smith, which instructs the closing of barbershops, salons, and tattoo shops statewide until Arkansas is past its COVID-19 outbreak.