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Out-of-state man behind bars following police chase
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A Colorado man accused of nearly driving head-on into a police cruiser and almost hitting several other vehicles after fleeing an officer into oncoming traffic last week is behind bars without bond in the county jail.

Jerimy Lee Gadberry, 42, of Calhan, Colorado, was charged in Faulkner County Circuit Court with fleeing, a Class D felony; aggravated assault, a Class D felony; failure to register vehicle, an unclassified traffic offense; driving on a suspended license, an unclassified misdemeanor; reckless driving, a Class B misdemeanor; and no insurance, an unclassified misdemeanor, following the July 14 incident.

The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Tuesday noting the 42-year-old man was behind bars in the Faulkner County Detention Center awaiting extradition to Colorado.

According to the felony probable cause affidavit filed against Gadberry, he nearly struck a deputy’s patrol car just after 11 a.m. on July 14.

Deputy Robert Hensley was eastbound on Highway 286 when he noticed a blue car in the westbound lane make its way into his lane.

“I immediately maneuvered my car over the fog line to avoid a head on collision,” the deputy’s report reads in part. “The car did not slow down and continued westbound on Hwy 286.”

The deputy turned around and attempted to pull over the suspect vehicle. However, according to the report, Gadberry did not stop.

“Mr. Gadberry continued westbound for several miles and used the oncoming traffic lane to pass several other vehicles. Several vehicles were forced to move over in an effort to avoid being struck by Mr. Gadberry,” officials said, noting the Colorado man fled at speeds up to 90 mph.

Gadberry reportedly “spammed on his breaks” at the intersection of Highway 286 and Drillers Drive, where he “swerved in the ditch and avoided striking a light pole.”

Before making his way back onto Highway 286, the affidavit states, the Colorado man drove through three separate parking lots “around 55-60 mph” while workers were present.

Deputy Hensley noted in his report that he continued chasing after Gadberry “due to his recklessness and disregard for the public.”

The Colorado man eventually crashed near Betty Lane and “fell out of the passenger side window.”

Authorities said he was booked into the Faulkner County Detention Center after he was treated at the Conway Regional Medical Center.

Gadberry is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Aug. 9 in Faulkner County Circuit Court for a plea and arraignment hearing. He is also being held without bond in the county jail pending extradition to Colorado.

Campers visit Quitman ranch
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One of the many activities children attending the St. Joseph School After School Program summer camp took place July 16, when they visited the Two Jj Ranch in Quitman.

The ranch is owned by Jared and Anna Hiegel-Welch.

Camp Director Laura Hiegel-Williams is Anna’s sister. Both are graduates of St. Joseph School.

The Welch family raises Brangus cattle and horses on their ranch.

Researchers: Virus surge a 'raging forest fire' in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Public health researchers on Tuesday called the rapid rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas a “raging forest fire,” and the state’s top health official warned that he expects significant outbreaks in schools.

The model by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health projected a daily average of 1,039 new cases over the next week. The model also predicted an average increase of 169 new cases per day in children under the age of 17.

Arkansas leads the country in new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The state also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with only 35 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

“COVID is no longer smoldering. It has broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and strength,” according to the UAMS forecast. “We cannot stand still. We must act to reduce the consequences of this new surge to the extent possible.”

The state’s cases on Tuesday increased by 1,875 to 367,007 total since the pandemic began, the Department of Health said.

Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, said he was concerned about the possibility of a “surge on top of this surge” when school begins this fall. Laws enacted this year prevent schools from mandating face masks or from requiring students and teachers to be vaccinated.

“I expect to see this year significant outbreaks within the school system,” Romero said during a virtual discussion on vaccine hesitancy held by U.S. News & World Report. “What’s already telling me that’s going to happen are the number of day care closures that have occurred because of outbreaks occurring, and camp exposures and closures occurring.”

Romero said the key to combatting those outbreaks will be parents stressing the importance of wearing masks.

The White House’s vaccine coordinator was in Arkansas to meet with Romero, hospital leaders and other health officials about the outbreak in the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month began holding town halls around the state aimed at addressing people who have so far resisted getting vaccinated, and he planned more of the forums next week.

The state’s virus hospitalizations on Tuesday increased by 28 to 815, with 313 in intensive care and 131 on ventilators. UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said the increases are straining hospital resources.

“Our staffing is really stretched thin at this point,” Patterson said. “It’s not a matter of finding beds, it’s a matter of finding people to take care of patients, whether they’re COVID-19 positive or not.”

UAMS releases findings from statewide COVID-19 antibody study

A statewide COVID-19 antibody study led by UAMS found that by the end of 2020, 7.4 percent of Arkansans had antibodies to the virus, but there were wide disparities among racial and ethnic groups. UAMS researchers released their findings this week to a public database, medRxiv (med archive).

The study included analysis of more than 7,500 blood samples from children and adults across the state. It was conducted in three waves from July to December 2020. The work was supported by $3.3 million in federal coronavirus aid that was then allocated by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Unlike diagnostic tests, COVID-19 antibody testing looks back into the immune system’s history. A positive antibody test means the person was exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19.

“An important finding of the study is the significant differences in COVID-19 antibody rates detected within specific racial and ethnic groups,” said Laura James, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and director of the UAMS Translational Research Institute. “Hispanic populations were almost 19 times more likely to have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies than whites, and Blacks were five times more likely to have antibodies as whites during the course of the study.”

These findings highlight the need to understand factors that impact SARS-CoV-2 infection in underrepresented minority populations, she added.

The UAMS team collected blood samples from children and adults. The first wave (July/August 2020), revealed low rates for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, averaging 2.6 percent in adults. However, by November/December, 7.4 percent of adult samples were positive.

Blood samples were collected from individuals seen at medical clinics for non-COVID reasons and who were not known to have had COVID-19 infection. The antibody positivity rates reflected cases of COVID-19 in the general population.

While the overall positivity rate in late December was relatively low, the findings are important because they indicate previously unrecognized COVID-19 infections, said UAMS’ Josh Kennedy, M.D., a pediatric allergist and immunologist who helped lead the study.

“Our findings underscore the need for everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can,” Kennedy said. “Very few people in the state have immunity from a natural infection, so vaccination is key for getting Arkansas out the pandemic.”

The team found little difference in antibody rates between rural and urban residents, which surprised researchers who thought rural residents might be less exposed.

The antibody test was developed by UAMS’ Karl Boehme, Ph.D., Craig Forrest, Ph.D., and Kennedy. Boehme and Forrest are associate professors in the College of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

The UAMS College of Public Health helped identify study participants through their contact tracing call center. In addition, samples were obtained from UAMS Regional Program sites across Arkansas, the Arkansas Federation for Medical Care and the Arkansas Department of Health.

Faculty within the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and College of Medicine participated in the epidemiologic and statistical evaluation of the data and included College of Public Health Dean Mark Williams, Ph.D., Benjamin Amick, Ph.D., and Wendy Nembhard, Ph.D., as well as Ruofei Du, Ph.D. and Jing Jin, MPH.

The study represents a major collaboration for UAMS, including the Translational Research Institute, Regional Programs, the Rural Research Network, the College of Public Health, the Department of Biostatistics in the College of Medicine, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, Arkansas Children’s, the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.

The Translational Research Institute is supported by grant TL1 TR003109 through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Governor announces more Community COVID Conversations
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Gov. Asa Hutchinson will continue his series of Community COVID Conversations next week, starting Monday, July 26, with a visit to Mountain Home.

“It’s critical we continue to have these discussions around Arkansas to ensure people have the facts and science behind these vaccines,” the governor said on Monday. “The testimony from local health care professionals, community leaders, and former COVID patients has been beneficial in combating misinformation.”

Governor Hutchinson will host Community COVID Conversations in the following locations:

Monday, July 26, 2021

11:30 a.m. – Mountain Home

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

11 a.m. – Dumas

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

6 p.m. – Heber Springs

Friday, July 30, 2021

11 a.m. – Siloam Springs

Final venues are expected to be announced later this week.