Impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt in Columbia County, from medical services to worship services.

Stephanie Schmittou, chief nursing officer at Magnolia Regional Medical Center, said earlier this week that MRMC has cared for 61 positive cases as inpatients since April 24.

Last Friday, all six of MRMC’s ICU beds were filled, including two with COVID-19 cases. By Monday, the number had changed to three ICU beds in use, with one being a COVID-19 case.

MRMC expects to receive more COVID-19 cases – either from the local population or from other facilities.

“We have already been contacted in regards of other facilities needing ICU or regular beds with intentions to assist as long as we have the capacity and capability,” she said.

The sickest COVID-19 patients need ventilators to assist with breathing. MRMC has been using up to three ventilators, but only one COVID-19 patient has needed one in recent days.

Schmittou said the hospital has a good supply of personal protective equipment at this time.

Area churches, which were practically shut down for in-person worship when the pandemic began, continue to have a variety of responses to the current situation as the number of sick people in Columbia County has grown.

Many churches provide worship services through their own websites are online utilities such as Facebook.

The largest church by membership in Columbia County, First Baptist Church of Magnolia, had resumed several activities in recent weeks but announced this week that it would dismiss all scheduled events for through the first of the year except for its 10 a.m. Sunday worship, and its Christmas Eve service.

Rev. Dustin Wisely, pastor of First Baptist, wrote on the church’s Facebook page that aside from the worship service, all other activities including Sunday school, choirs and youth groups, are dismissed.

“These decisions are difficult but we believe them to be in the best interest of our church body and community,” Wisely wrote.

Southern Arkansas University dismissed last week for an unprecedented two-month break between the fall and winter semesters. The Magnolia School District, which added a “Virtual Friday” plan earlier in the semester, has been on vacation this week. At last report, a total of 32 students, faculty and staff had COVID-19 with many more in quarantine due to possible close contact with victims.

Case counts in Columbia County continue to soar.

On November 1, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 757 COVID-19 infections in Columbia County. On Thanksgiving Day, the total had risen by 306 to 1,063. The number of active cases – people who have not recovered and who have COVID-19 at the moment – was 79 on November 1. On Thursday, the number had almost doubled to 153.

Columbia County’s first two COVID-19 related deaths were reported the week of April 26. Since that time, 24 Columbia County residents have died – an average of one every nine days. Three have died since November 1.

Case counts in neighboring Ouachita County have exploded since November 1. There were 401 known cases. The number has grown by 302 to 703. The number of active Ouachita County cases rose from 49 on November 1 to 168 – an increase of 118. The number of Ouachita County fatalities has risen from 9 on November 1 to 12 on Thursday. All three of the new deaths have happened in the past two weeks.

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