Covid: A Christmas Story

Positive cases continue unabated climb; Plus Moore on Maumelle and this week's news and sports headlines

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Covid: A Christmas Story

Positive cases continue unabated climb

By Jeremy Peppas

As Christmas presents go, Covid-19 is the one people want the least but seem to be getting anyway and will continue to get far after the holidays are over.

Past Christmas, the virus may still be here, there and everywhere at Easter, as community spread remains unchecked. 

But back to our Christmas present.

The most current numbers are never really current since they’re constantly increasing, but let’s take a look anyway.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement breaks down Covid-positive cases in two categories: Known and New. The organization then organizes those numbers at a very local level, broken down into three categories: Community, School District and Zip Code.

The ACHI made that move back in August, and ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson explained the reasoning then, “This new information provides one more lens into Arkansas’s Covid-19 outbreak at the local level. One thing it shows is that rates of infection vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood: Some ZIP codes have fewer than 10 active cases per 10,000 residents, while some have more than 100 cases per 10,000 residents.”

The latest numbers paint an unflattering portrait of Maumelle, along with many other communities.

As of Dec. 21, the 72113 Zip Code showed 1,224 Covid positives and 191 new Covid positives. Each positive test represents one resident who lives here. The Census Bureau shows a 2019 population of 18,199 people in that Zip Code, which is roughly Maumelle’s city limits plus a portion of North Little Rock along Maumelle Boulevard That means roughly 1 in every 15 people who live here has tested positive for Covid-19.

ACHI’s case counts include both children and adults. The center doesn’t track deaths at the local level.

Active case status is defined as the “14-day period after either a positive Covid-19 test result or onset of Covid symptoms.” That time frame extends to 21 days for those who have been admitted to the hospital and are Covid-positive.

For comparison, Arkansas has a total of 203,107 Covid-positives, which also works out to roughly 1 in every 15 Arkansans having tested positive for the coronavirus.

The local numbers concern Maumelle Mayor Caleb Norris, and he said the city is being vigilant.

“The city has taken numerous steps to reduce the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “I could talk for hours about the steps we’ve taken that range from actions directly related to public health to those taken to ensure we are able to provide essential services during a severe outbreak.”

Among the goals has been to ensure “continuity of operations,” so “no matter what the pandemic threw at us, we would be able to provide police, fire and sanitation pickup services.”

Norris leaned hard on the state for help early on and continues to do so.

He noted Maumelle doesn’t have anyone on staff who is a medical expert on infectious diseases. “As a result, we have relied heavily on guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Governor’s office … it just makes sense to rely on experts from the state. Reliance on the state’s guidance has served as the foundation on Maumelle’s response to Covid-19.

That resulted in some very early, concrete steps taken by Maumelle.

“Beginning back in March, Fire Chief Gerald Ezell was in communications with local [senior living] facilities to ensure that proper precautions were being taken,” Norris said. “We also put into place extra safeguards for those instances where our first responders responded to these locations. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent an outbreak in a local facility. During the outbreak, we communicated regularly with management and provided additional services as necessary.”

In addition to municipal governments, school districts have also been hit hard by Covid-19.

The far-flung Pulaski County Special School District includes Maumelle, and portions of north Pulaski County are in what the ACHI terms a “red zone” district with community infection rate of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents.

As of Dec. 21, PCSSD had 832 new known positives, with a total of 5,821 staff and students who have had a positive Covid test. PCSSD was at 66 on Dec. 21 and 52 on Dec. 14 per ACHI’s metrics.

PCSSD is one of the state’s 182 school districts in the red zone or beyond, a record high. Little Rock School District is also among those 182, and North Little Rock schools joined the list on Wednesday.

Locally, the county district went virtual for the final two days of school last week at Maumelle Middle and Oak Grove Elementary. School is out this week and next for the holiday break.

ACHI’s Thompson said the growing number of positives for school districts was an ongoing concern, and “hope for the future has come with two new vaccines before Christmas, but the present threat is greater than ever and will be with us for several months to come. We must approach the holidays with the goals to keep our schools open and keep our hospitals from being overrun.”

Norris was also optimistic about medical developments happening fast globally.

“I am hopeful that the vaccines will help curb the spread so that our lives can return to normal,” he said.
The question that still remains is when “normal” will return.

Moore on Maumelle: My Take 

By Neal Moore

Will things be any different in 2021? We have collectively declared a nationwide movement of putting 2020 behind us with a hope toward a better year. Obviously, turning that corner is composed of two major factors: conquering a damnable disease that changed everything about our lives, and a president who will be replaced on Jan. 20, 2021. 

So, the answer is no and yes. The disease will still be here in 2021 and maybe longer. The current president will be the former president. One out of two ain’t bad. 

But here we are on Christmas Eve and we’re wondering how we can have a Merry and Happy after that. As a country, we are dealing with some pretty weighty issues.  So, let’s depend on our own Ghost of Christmas Past to help deal with the much uglier Ghost of Christmas Present.   

Far from the conditions of things Dickensian, my Past Ghost has only good things to show me: the true magic of Santa Claus, the time with family now gone, and the laughter and fun of being just a kid with no worries and a few shiny items under the tree.  

But dealing with the Present Ghost is much more challenging. We fear gathering together with even our immediate family. We fear attending even a Christmas service at church or shopping for our holiday meals. Too many respiratory droplets being sprayed into our faces.  So, how do we make it Merry and Bright? 

We will do the best we can to make it as normal as possible. The lights are up, the tree is decorated, Amazon has delivered most of our gifts and we will celebrate in a more exclusive fashion than years gone by. 

So, to my Ghost of Christmas Future: bring the vaccine, help save our small businesses, let my kids attend school without fear, and let me retire as their inadequate home-school teacher, bring back the fans to sporting events, concerts, movies and plays, and let me go to my favorite restaurant. Give us our freedom back!

Have a Merry Maumelle Christmas. God Bless Us Everyone. 

Doug Shinn - One of Your New Council Members  

I asked Doug Shinn, the newly elected Council member for Ward 4, Position 1, for his comments as he begins serving the city starting in January. Shinn defeated incumbent John Vaprezsan. 

“I am glad and thankful that the residents of Ward 4 chose to elect me as their representative.  I'm looking forward to serving and have been impressed with the cooperation that was demonstrated during the budgeting process by both the elected officials and department directors.  

“I am excited that we will be starting the new year with a balanced budget. That being said, I am concerned about the ongoing Covid virus along with political changes that are being promised at the federal level and how they may affect our ability to maintain our budget goals. We may be called on to be creative to see it through.

“Commercial growth is still a major issue for me and the path we take to bring our great plans for the north interchange to pass will require us to reach out and bring new resources for development into the community especially with the questionable economic forecast that we face. It may require us to take more small steps to establish the foundation to achieve this ambitious goal. 

“I am proud of Maumelle and look forward to serving with the council to bring forth a stronger future for our city.”

Foodie News 

A new mobile offering is coming to Maumelle. It’s called “Steaming Hotties Espresso Cafe.” According to their Facebook page, they will be coming soon to the Morgan/Maumelle area, 21505 Hwy 365 N across from Kum & Go headed toward the Morgan/Maumelle exit. 

They will be serving specialty coffees, pastries and more. There are other mobile offerings on the Boulevard but none that I’ve tried made me want to go back. I haven’t tried Firefly Burgers, but I’ve heard good things. Send me your foodie reviews and news. 

NOTE: It is not my tendency to post negative reviews, so save your time. Send your negative reviews to the manager of the establishments in an email or private message. Give them a second chance or just don’t do business with them.  

Food Pantries 

Amongst us sinners, there are saints out there doing what they can to help those in need.  There is an ongoing need for food and Maumelle has responded with the small food pantries that have popped up all over the country. 

Location of the boxes:

  • First Baptist Church Maumelle, 100 Valencia Drive. The pantry box is in the upper parking lot median across from the office doors.

  • St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, 4001 Club Manor Dr located behind Maumelle Kroger, next to the fire station. 

  • Calvary Chapel, 650 Edgewood Drive across from the Maumelle tennis court in the old US Pizza parking lot.

There are regular updates on Facebook when the pantries are empty, so keep an eye out for their needs and possibly pick up a few nonperishable items when you shop.

"No man is a failure who has friends." -- It's a Wonderful Life 

See you on the Boulevard. 

Neal Moore is a public relations consultant and resident of Maumelle. Send your Maumelle news or comments to neal.moore@sbcglobal.net