OUACHITA COUNTY, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — More people continue to lose their lives because of the coronavirus and it’s becoming more of a concern for those specifically in Ouachita County.
Sylvester Smith, Ouachita County Coroner and owner of Williams Funeral Home in Camden, says now is not the time to get too comfortable.
Hospitals across the country are overcrowded and it’s a problem he’s seeing at the Ouachita County Medical Center.
“I’ve seen and heard about it in California and different places but we’re experiencing the same thing here just on a smaller scale,” Smith said. “They think it’s not that bad but it is bad.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Smith says he saw one death every 3-4 weeks but now it’s becoming more common.
In the last few weeks, he’s seen about 1-2 deaths per day with the increase rising after the Thanksgiving holiday. Currently, Smith says there have been approximately 50 related deaths total in the county.
“I don’t see this ending in the next couple of months. We’ll probably get to the point where we have 3-5 deaths a day,” Smith said.
Smith has taken his concerns to his Facebook page, warning the public of the deaths and the caution the community should be taking during this pandemic.
“I post the things I post to let people know that this is no joke. People have used this virus saying it’s fake but how can something be a joke when you’ve lost 400,000 American lives because of it,” Smith said.
“If you can’t see that it’s something wrong when you go to the hospital and you can’t even get in the hospital, the ICU is full. The light ought to go off in your head. I’ve seen hospital personnel call all over the state trying to find a bed for somebody with covid and that’s sad. People in the general public don’t see that.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 52 more people died in Arkansas Wednesday which brings the total number of deaths to 4,742.
“You’ve got to protect yourself at all times,” Smith said. “Don’t let up because that one time you’re careless not only will you infect yourself but you’ll infect your loved ones.”
Recently, he witnessed a group congregating for a birthday party and no one was wearing a mask.
“That’s just a chance not worth taking,” he said. “We don’t think about the consequences about what we’re doing.”
Smith has responded to many homes where a person was out of quarantine after testing positive for the virus and suddenly died days later.
He’s particularly concerned with those who live in rural areas because he believes most of the public aren’t knowledgeable about the symptoms. In addition, he believes relatives inside the home aren’t pushing their sick loved one to get the help they need.
“They wait to late to get help. They think it’s just a common cold or the flu and they try to treat it themselves. Then by the time they go and seek help, the virus has taken hold and it’s too late,” Smith said. “Every minute and hour delayed gives the virus more chance to take a hold to your body.”
He says he averages about 400 deaths in general a year but believes that number could almost double if people don’t wash their hands, keep their distance and wear a mask.
Smith wants to use his position to inform the public. He says he’s never seen anything like this virus and hopes and prays he’ll never have to witness this again.
“That’s why I go on Facebook to let them see the consequences, let them see the damage of their carelessness and what’s happening in the community because if somebody don’t go out there and tell them they won’t know how serious this is,” Smith said.
“It’s nobody out there printing these numbers. The health department is behind about 2-3 weeks behind maybe more than that.”