Defining COVID-19 Terms: Community Spread

May 19, 2020


Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Policy Analyst

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In this installment in our series explaining key terms and phrases used by public health officials in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the term “community spread.”

Community spread, also known as community transmission, occurs when people become infected with an illness in a certain area, and the source of the infection is unknown. While some earlier cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. could be tied to travel or known contact with infected persons, community spread has become increasingly common.

In Arkansas, there have been instances of community spread in different parts of the state. In mid-May, testing revealed a spike in cases in Forrest City in St. Francis County. Forrest City is the location of a federal correctional institution at which a number of inmates and prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state has begun lifting restrictions on bars, restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses, and there are concerns that COVID-19 cases may begin rising. As Forrest City and other areas of the state have shown, issues with community spread present an ongoing challenge to mitigating the spread of the virus in Arkansas. Additionally, continued individual responsibility, including practices such as good hand hygiene, social distancing, and the wearing of facial coverings when social distancing is not possible, are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in local communities.

See more definitions of terms and other information about the pandemic on our website’s COVID-19 in Arkansas page.

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