As residents in the River Valley, the State of Arkansas and across our nation work together to be vigilant through social distancing in the battle to prevent the spread of COVID-19, alarming information was shared on social media this past weekend that has caused many questions and concerns, and has also angered many local residents.
After receiving several inquiries concerning posts about a large party held in Russellville, the posts' legitimacy and the possible consequences of the actions, River Valley Now spoke to officials to obtain answers.
An investigation began on Sunday, April 5 after information was shared through social media concerning allegations of a party that was held on Saturday night, April 4 in the City of Russellville. The posts alleged that numerous people had attended the party despite a directive made by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
The posts not only allege the prohibited gathering occurred, but also warned that an individual living in the home where the party was held had tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor announced the ban during a media briefing last week and it was effective March 27, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. The ban prohibiting the gathering of 10 or more people in any confined indoor or outdoor space was ordered by Governor Hutchinson in order to assist in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
A post shared on Facebook just after 12 a.m. Sunday morning stated, “This is very important for anyone that went to that party last night or anyone family that could be in danger please go get tested if you went to this party last night or if you know someone that did DO NOT BE AROUND THEM!! *The CDC got a hold of them this morning to inform them about their roommate having the coronavirus and asked information about who was at the house, the kids did not let them know that there was a party last night.* PLEASE SPREAD AWARENESS!!”
At the time this story was published the post had been shared over 400 times.
On Monday, RVN contacted the Russellville Police Department concerning the allegations and were told, “We have received many phone calls concerning this matter and conducted an investigation of the allegations made through social media. After conducting an investigation, our findings were forwarded to the Arkansas Department of Health who will take the lead in the matter.”
On Wednesday, April 1, 2020 Russellville Mayor Richard Harris released a statement reminding residents of the ban issued by the governor and reiterated, “Possible punishments if this directive is violated include a misdemeanor offense punishable by $100-500 fine, one month in jail, or both.”
A joint press release shared on Monday afternoon April 6, by Pope County Judge Ben Cross and Russellville Mayor Richard Harris stated the following.
The COVID-19 virus is a serious enough issue to be deemed a global pandemic and has caused tens of thousands of deaths worldwide. This virus is very contagious and it is imperative that the citizens of Pope County and Russellville take this issue seriously.
There are instances in our community that demonstrate a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of the virus and the protective measures that have been put in place to safeguard the public.
Over the weekend, a party was held at a residence within the city limits of Russellville in which an individual under quarantine for suspected COVID-19 resided. This individual has since been confirmed positive. A disregard for the welfare of others in a situation of this type cannot be underestimated. The Arkansas Department of Health will be conducting an investigation and will be contacting those known to be in attendance and direct them as to the appropriate measures that must be taken to protect themselves and the public from the spread of the virus.
It is important for those who attended a party of this type to confirm with the host whether anyone in at the party has been under quarantine or identified as COVID-19 positive. If you did attend this type of get together, please contact the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-803-7847.
The Governor of Arkansas has issued a directive banning congregations of 10 or more people, it is expected that individuals in our community will adhere to this guidance. The spread of the COVID-19 virus in our community can only be constrained if we take the appropriate actions to prevent spread.