Needless to say, COVID-19 is the topic. County offices have been closed to foot traffic, jails are not allowing visitors, and really, it’s about like anywhere else in the country right now.
Just got off a county government call with Van Buren County before I began typing this.
It’s what’s generally a monthly thing that’s done, and usually around a table, as the various mayors and department heads gather and review what’s going on. But then of course, again, COVID-19 is what’s going on, also explaining the teleconference as opposed to table meeting.
And it’s what we’ve been hearing elsewhere: Tests take a week to turn around, and protective gear, while present, is not available in the numbers anyone would like.
What makes that interesting is that a given test for COVID takes a week to turn around. We learned that in Cleburne County just this week.
The problem is this means that the number of infections we see on that ever-growing number are actually infections from the past week. So as Arkansas crosses over the 200 mark Tuesday morning, these are the 200-plus cases for which we’re just now seeing results.
The testing lag was apparent in Cleburne County beginning last week.
Cleburne County was an early in-the-state location for infections. It began – and details are scant – with a guest speaker at a church service in Greers Ferry. The church service included a number of volunteers from the church and in at least one case a volunteer, along with the church’s pastor and his wife, were infected, the guest having apparently (and unwittingly) brought the infection with him.
The pastor and wife were symptomatic fairly quickly, the volunteers less so. I know this because one of the volunteers serves on the quorum court, which had its regular meeting two days after the service – which was last Thursday.
We found out he was infected this past Monday morning. He’d been fine at the court meeting, gregarious as ever, and when I spoke with him Friday he was achy with a runny nose. This, of course, has led to a number of quorum court justices and related personnel going into isolation as a cautionary act.
Which brings up a new twist. According to Van Buren County Quorum Court Judge Dale James, quorum courts must meet under any circumstance outside of martial law being declared. So worst case, if the Cleburne County Quorum Court is especially impacted (and currently it doesn’t appear to be) it would still have to hold court, sick justices or not.
And while it’s the last refuge of the hack columnist: Nobody really knows how things would play out under those circumstances. At the same time, this is quite apparently one of the great pandemics of history, so it’s understandable if some things meet with a “We don’t know” answer.
Add on top of this “don’t know” stack the impact this disease will have on seniors, which both Van Buren and Cleburne counties have in abundance as popular retirement destinations, coupled with the impact on local economies.
Judge James proposed at a recent quorum court meeting in that county is that initially, as people engaged in what he called “panic buying,” the county would actually see a surge in tax revenue. The following month, as the population settled in for what by all appearances will be a long haul, the county could expect a significant revenue drop-off, he said.
In Van Buren County, with its already very tight budget and overall lack of revenues, this could create significant problems.