FAYETTEVILLE-The impact of the Covid-19 on the area at this point in the pandemic is about as serious as the bad season of the flu, members of the city’s health committee were told Wednesday.
This means that restrictive measures such as the use of public masks and social distance may continue to be rolled back, said city public health officer Marti Sharkey. She said the restrictions need to end when Covid-related deaths fall below the number of influenza deaths.
The metrics used by Sharkey were 165 Covid-related deaths per day in the country, about 1 per day in the state, about 1 per week in the county, and 1-2 per month in the city. It was a death.
“Our society has determined that the bad season for the flu, the deaths from it, is acceptable to us,” Sharkey said. “So this is acceptable without limiting our daily lives. I hate all that language, but it is.”
In Arkansas, seven deaths have been reported in the last seven days, with an average of one per day. This is the first time the average has dropped to that level since May 19, 2020.
Sharkey also suggested creating a more comprehensive online dashboard to monitor covid activity in the area. The dashboard can include information about hospital staffing and occupied beds, average 7-day mortality, spread of mutations, wastewater monitoring, antibody prevalence, and vaccination progress.
The Northwest Arkansas Council completed daily Covid 19 updates in late April after covid-related hospitalizations consistently fell below a handful in the region.
However, civil servants can take precautions to help stop the potential rise in covid activity and other respiratory illnesses in the fall, Sharkey said. She said that public buildings, schools, commercial buildings and communal living spaces need to be equipped with appropriate filters and ventilation.
The facility should now stockpile N95 masks, have a flexible illness and attendance policy, and residents should have a covid test kit at home, Sharkey said.
Medical professionals and residents alike need to switch conversations from Covid-only concerns to respiratory illnesses in general, Sharkey said. She said the threat of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus is likely to add to the potential rise in Covid after the summer.
So far, active activity in the region has followed a national trend, with occasional slight increases, but no surge, according to Sharkey.
Influenza deaths were significantly reduced as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. The state reported 23 flu deaths in this flu season dating back to September and 24 flu deaths in the 2020-21 season. According to the Weekly Influenza Report from the Kansas Department of Health, the number of influenza deaths exceeded 100 each year in the 2019-20 and 2018-19 seasons and over 200 in the 2017-18 season.
Hudasharaf, a board member who is the director of the Patwalker Health Center at the University of Arkansas, said the severity of influenza over the past few seasons has declined due to mitigation of public risk.
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