State health leaders are aiming to provide increased data for smaller Arkansas communities in the fight against COVID-19. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) is aiming to provide more information for these communities on the number of cases at the city/town level, rather than the county level.
According to director Dr. Joe Thompson, the ACHI has been working with state and local leaders throughout the pandemic, serving as a “surge capacity amplifier,” on various efforts. These efforts have been broken into two larger categories: communication efforts and data analytics.
“On the communication side, we’ve done weekly phone calls with the leadership of the state Chamber of Commerce, with CEOs across the state, with the Arkansas Municipal League,” he said. “Through the latter, we’ve had really great calls with mayors and council members across the state.”
Local mayors and elected officials have emphasized the need for more granular data on COVID-19 infections, Thompson said. Currently, data on COVID-19 infections is presented largely at the county level by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Data focused on the town-level would be used to formulate local responses to COVID-19 management and prevention.
“When the reports come out at the county level, a small town mayor doesn’t have the power to be able to say, ‘We have it in our town,’” Thompson said.
Working with the Department of Health, ACHI has developed a list of communities with COVID-19 infections that is accessible from ACHI website. According to Thompson, there are roughly 600 communities in the state with documented infections. “We have the number of cases in each community – about 600 communities have had a case,” he said. “We do not report of communities that have fewer than 10 cases”
This list will be updated weekly, and the ACHI is reportedly working on adding more data. Thompson said that ACHI is working with the Department of Health to “harmonize” the definition of ‘active cases’ to be able to show the number of active cases for each community in the future.
“This is, I think, valuable information for those local mayors, local elected officials and others,” Thompson said.