• There were 261 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest single day of community increases since tracking began. Days with bigger numbers included inmates in correctional facilities. None of the cases today were from prisons.
• Benton County had the biggest increase with 85 cases. 85% of those were people with Latino surnames. Washington County was next with 25 cases, 40% of those with Hispanic surnames. Dr. Smith says of the total cases reported today, 42% are Latino, many tied to the food processing industry. Dr. Smith says the state will continue with additional outreach and testing in Hispanic communities.
• There were 2,966 test results reported. The positive rate was 3.9%.
• There were five additional deaths, taking the death toll to 125.
• With 4,583 recoveries, the total active cases in Arkansas have climbed 97 since yesterday to 1,830.
• Dr. Smith pointed out that many of the new cases are again in younger people who do not present with symptoms at the time of testing.
• Economic Task Force Chairman Steuart Walton says the task force report will be posted tomorrow at arkansasready.com. He said over many meetings, a consistent topic is liability concern by business, nonprofits, and faith based organizations. He posted a slide showing three possible suggestions: 1) an executive order for liability protection for businesses and employers, 2) legislation addressing immunity protection in a special session, or 3) liability protection legislation during the regular session next year. Gov. Hutchinson was not ready to say which of those he preferred.
• When asked about potential concerns, that if there are liability protections, employees might face unsafe conditions, the Governor pointed out employees have a remedy via workers compensation if they can provide a causal relationship. He also said while he believes employers will do the right things, and added they are subject to regulatory oversight.
• Walton stated there is a “level of anxiety” apparent in almost all meetings regarding liability, calling it a “resounded theme” of those meetings. He also said liability concerns will be “a “drag on the state’s ability to recover its economy.”
• Walton also reported the task force sees continued testing and tracing as a priority, combined with the need for career training and rural broadband expansion.
• The Governor also said there are still plans being made for the opening of K-12 education. He noted that might include a blended approach of classroom and home based, plus possible structural changes in classrooms. He is still expecting schools to open about the original planned dates.
• 151 additional cases since yesterday, taking total to 6,180. There are 1,729 active cases statewide. Specific Garland County numbers have not been updated since yesterday.
• There were two additional deaths taking the death toll to 119.
• There were eight additional hospitalizations for a total of 107, near the state record.
• 2,984 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, and the positive rate was 3.3%. When asked, Dr. Smith noted the positive rates are calculated on a slightly different 24 hour period than the results rate.
• Governor Hutchinson was asked about pictures showing many people on Lake Hamilton and other places not social distancing. He said he was concerned about those reports, and said he’ll be looking at what other actions can be taken to discourage that behavior. He noted this is not a “police state,” and the public health guidelines on the lakes do not have a force of law. He will be visiting with law enforcement about a role where they remind groups of those guidelines and suggest better adherence to the guidelines.
• The Governor also announced that ADH Director Dr. Nate Smith has tended his resignation to accept a position with the Centers for Disease Control. He will remain in Arkansas through Aug 28th. Dr. Jose Romero will become the Interim Director of Health. Romero is an infectious disease pediatrician at ACH.
• When asked about what he can do to “de-politicize” things such distancing and mask wearing, Governor Hutchinson said he could set a good example as he says he does. But he pointed out Arkansans should accept that wearing a mask is about public health, not a political decision; and that mask wearing and social distancing are signs of being a good neighbor.
• Hutchinson and Smith said they expect an increase in hospitalizations to continue, and they have plans that are still valid, based on when projections were higher than the numbers have turned out to be.
May 22, 2020
• The Governor said the unemployment rate in Arkansas is at 10.2%, under the national average reported this morning at 14.7%.
• There were 455 new positive cases reported by the Governor today, the highest number of increases in a single day. 226 of them were in the community; 229 from the Federal Prison in Forrest City. Dr. Smith explained those prison cases were the ones he mentioned earlier this week but have just been added to the state numbers.
• There were 3 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 110.
• There were 2,616 tests conducted yesterday, and the positive rate was 4.4%.
• Team sports for K-12 will be permitted starting 6/1, but with a long list of regulations. This does not include contact sports or college sports. Parents and coaches are advised to check the Health Department website when those directives are posted later today.
• Likewise, summer overnight camps can open starting 5/31, but with a long list of directives, which will be posted later today on Health Department website.
• When asked what parents should take from the openings in light of the increased numbers, the Governor says he sees his role as providing good information, expecting Arkansans to make the decisions that are right in their situation.
• When asked about re-closing some business categories, Hutchinson said that is not in his plans. He said Arkansas has to learn to manage the virus and keep business going at the same time.
• Regarding masks in restaurants, Gov. Hutchinson relayed a story about his dining at a restaurant. When he was finished, a waiter asked him to address customers who refused to wear masks per the directives, and even used abusive language toward the staff. The Governor said there is no excuse for that kind of behavior; and that the use of masks is a public safety measure that customers must abide by. That story was in response to a reporter’s question about the restaurant that opened, and then re-closed because patrons refused to wear masks. The restaurant was in NWA.
• Regarding contact tracing. Dr. Smith said the big numbers reported today are “of concern” and will stress the system. He also said he’s asked the CARE task force for additional funds for contact tracing, which have been approved. That now goes to the legislature for appropriation. He said the contact tracing provides the ability to understand where the cases are developing. To this date, he says they’ve been able to track 80% of the sources with a goal of getting that to over 90%.
• The new cases reported today are from a variety of counties. 33 in Yell County; 27 in Benton County; 26 in Washington County; 18 in Union County and 13 in Pulaski County. Several of the Yell County cases involve workers in the poultry industry.
• Regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the website is running, the and first payments were issued to over 3,000 people last night, with more to come. The investigation into the security breach continues.
• Governor Hutchinson is in Washington DC for a meeting with President Trump. The briefing today was conducted by Dr. Nate Smith, head of the Health Department.
• There were 5 additional deaths since yesterday, taking the total death toll to 107. Four of the five deaths were in nursing homes.
• There were 80 new positive cases since yesterday, taking the cumulative statewide total to 5,005. Of those, 1,044 are active.
• There are no new cases reported in Garland County. The Health Department website shows 130 total cases since the start of the pandemic, one death and 120 recoveries. That means there are nine active cases in the county.
• The announcement open openings for sports leagues and camps was to have been today. That has been postponed until the Governor’s return tomorrow.
• Dr. Smith and members of his staff talked again about the importance of contact tracing.
• When asked about positive cases in the workforce, especially in the food processing industry, Dr. Smith says there have been over 100 cases since the beginning, and said about half of them are positive. There are currently 14 cases as a poultry plant in Dardenelle.
• He pointed out the difficulty in always locating cases in plants because of the number of people who have no symptoms.
• The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website remains down, as a 3rd party computer forensic team works to assure information in that site is secure. That’s in the wake of the breach first reported Friday night. The Governor says his first goals are to get the site up running again, and get payments disbursed. He said there will be time after that to assess what went wrong. He said “I learn something every day” and added there will be a lot of lessons learned when this is all over.
• Dr. Nate Smith said as we continue dealing with Covid 19 in the months ahead, people will have to “internalize the directives” from the Health Department, and make what he called “healthy choices” for themselves. He added that he can see a time when the state will be lifting regulations, not implementing new ones.
• The Governor concluded by saying that unless something unexpected happens, he does not plan to do a briefing over the weekend.
• There were 130 new cases since yesterday; 17 in correctional facilities and 113 in various communities. That brings to 4,336 cumulative cases since the start.
• There was one additional death taking that total to 98.
• With 3,340 recoveries, there are 928 active cases in Arkansas.
• There has been one additional case in Garland County, taking the cumulative total to 121. There are still five active cases here.
• 1,991 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours. The Governor reports the positive rate at 2.6%.
• There were five additional hospitalizations since yesterday, the 2nd consecutive day with an increase.
• Governor Hutchinson said the combination of more new cases and the growth in hospital cases means “we are not in a place to predict” when we might enter Phase II, adding the numbers are not encouraging for that move.
• The new cases were spread around the state. The top cases were: Union County, 21 – Craighead County, 14 – Pulaski County – 13, Washington County, 12 and Jefferson County, 11.
• The Governor displayed a diagram to illustrate contact tracing. Dr. Smith said for each person contacted, the Health Department tracers end up having to trace 2.5 additional people on average.
• The Governor was happy with news the Ft. Smith concert which had been planned for Friday will now be moved to Monday, to comply with Phase 1 guidelines. That came in the wake of the cease and desist order. The Health Department is reviewing the promoters plans for the event.
• An inmate from Cummins Prison who had tested negative and was paroled was arrested in Eureka Springs, where he tested positive for the virus. Health Department tracers will be working to determine who that person contacted and will follow up with them. There is also more testing planned at the Williams Prison facility near Pine Bluff, where there had been some positive test results.
• There were 72 new cases since this time yesterday, taking Arkansas to a cumulative total of 4,236 cases. There were 2 additional deaths for a total of 97, and there are 862 active cases.
• With regard to high education in the Fall, the Governor said they are working with campus leaders for rapid testing where needed this fall.
• When asked about school in the Fall, the Governor said meetings are ongoing. There is no date yet, but it is his expectation there will be a full year of classroom instruction next school year.
• Dr. Nate Smith says he remains concerned about people who decline Doctor visits for health conditions unrelated to Covid-19 out of fear of contracting the illness. He urged people to go to their Doctor and not “gut it out at home.” He explained he had to convince his own father-in-law to make a Doctor’s visit just this morning.
• The Governor announced today that pools, splash pads, water parks and swim beaches can open May 22. There are restrictions which include 50% capacity, 6 foot distancing, markings for the 6′ for lines to slides, diving boards and the like and frequent disinfecting.
• There were 82 new positive cases of Covid-19 since this time a day ago. That was a slight increase from the number of new cases yesterday.The number of hospital patients went down by 6 to 64. There were no new deaths. There are 2,159 recovered cases, meaning the active cases are at 1,447 statewide. We are still at five active cases here in Garland County.
• There were 2,355 tests conducted yesterday. That’s over 2,000 for the second consecutive day. The overall positive rate is at 5.8%, well under the 10% threshold set by public heath officials. Refer to the chart (right) used by the Governor during the briefing.
• There were 2 additional deaths, taking the total fatalities to 85 in Arkansas. With 2,109 recoveries, that means there are 1,374 active cases statewide.
• There were no new cases in Garland County. There are only 10 active cases here according to the Health Department website.
• The Governor said he has received a commitment for 90,000 test and swab kits from the CDC, and he has set a goal of 60,000 tests in the month of May.
• After meeting with the Dental Advisory Group, the Health Department has moved up the date for non emergency dental care from May 18 to May 11. He conceded not all dental practices will be ready in time. When asked about compliance to the regulations, Dr. Smith said Board of Dental Examiners will be making non announced compliance visits.
• The Governor also announced an Executive Order aimed at helping the ailing Oil and Gas industry in South Arkansas, waiving fees for well production and assessment fees.
• Dr. Smith laid out positive results by age group, noting the majority of new positive cases are with people under the age of 65. He noted many of them had underlying conditions. Dr. Smith also pointed out that age is not a factor in contracting the disease, but age and underlying conditions play a big part in the risk factors for complications.
May 5, 2020
• The Governor also said the state unemployment trust fund is still in good shape. The question came in light of reports that states including CA and IL are borrowing money from the federal government to refill the funds in those states.
• Regarding the Department of Corrections, inmate bunks have been separated by six feet. While there have been some staff members who have tested positive at other facilities, there have yet to be any inmates who tested positive outside of Cummins or the Community Corrections facilities.
• The Governor rejected the suggestion of using executive power to ban evictions for non payment of rent. He suggested for those who have not paid rent due to a Corona virus job loss, there is rental assistance available through private non-profit foundations. But he also pointed out some eviction proceedings may have to do with non payment of rents that pre-date the Covid-19 crisis.
April 30, 2020
(Commerce Secretary Mike Preston with be on KZNG tomorrow morning (05/01/20) at 8:05 to discuss this further)
• There were 81 new positives since this time yesterday; none of them from the Cummins Prison. That is a higher rate of new cases than the previous day report. The total number since the beginning of the outbreak in Arkansas stands at 3,192.
• There are no new cases reported in Garland County. Montgomery County reported a case of Covid positive for the first time.
• The Governor announced a May 11th Phase One opening for restaurant dining with significant health restrictions. Dining rooms can be open at 33% of their capacity; employees are expected to be checked, and wear gloves and masks; while alcohol can be served at tables, the bar itself will not be available for use; reservations are encouraged as is advanced ordering; and specific cleaning protocols are outlined.
• The Governor also announced a $15 million dollar “Ready for Business Grant Program” to help business restart. While there are more specifics to come, it amounts to approx. $1,000 for each full-time employee, with the money earmarked for the costs of doing business in this environment, i.e. the purchase of cleaning supplies, PPE, and other business changes that must be made to comply with new regulations. The Governor says the grant money is also designed to help build consumer confidence for dining out. The grant money is subject to approval by the legislative council and the CARES act task force.
• The Governor says when appropriate, Phase Two will be permitted, allowing room for more diners.
• Dr. Nate Smith says there are currently 194 people involved in contact tracing. He said some of them are used to talk to patients recovering at home with an eye toward identifying those who are deemed “recovered”.
• The Chair of the “After the Peak” Task Force, Steuart Walton, said some activities will resume faster than others; and those decisions will be based on Arkansas’ own set of facts. He said Arkansas should not see itself in competition with other states when it comes to decisions about easing restrictions. He also said the decision making and information is based on “a complexity that is surprising and profound.”
• The Governor also said they are exploring current Workers Compensation rules with regard to those who may contract Covid-19 in a “causal relationship” with their employment. Current rules provide “barriers” to such a claim, and the administration is looking at possible changes.
(infograph courtesy of THV11)
• There have been two new deaths since yesterday, taking the total to 52 fatalities.
• A worker at the Ester Prison Unit has tested positive for the virus. This makes the third Dept of Corrections facility to have positive tests. (The first two were Cummins and the Community Corrections facility in Little Rock.) Inmates and other staff who may have come in contact with Ester staff member are being checked. The Ester unit is a low security facility near Pine Bluff.
• The Governor says he expects Arkansas to have tested 2% of the state population in the coming weeks. In discussions with the White House, Hutchinson said he’s been assured there will be help in securing additional testing materials.
• UAMS is starting a clinical trial of convalescent plasma. That’s where plasma from a recovered patient is given to a patient with the virus with the aim of helping that person build up their immune system. Dr. Smith says there have been 30 such plasma donations so far, with the plasma provided to 13 patients.
• The Governor announced that state parks will begin to reopen to Arkansas residents starting May 1st. This is a staged opening for overnight camping. Starting on 5/1, camping will only be allowed for those in self-contained RV’s. Other park amenities are scheduled to open starting May 15th. Those could include restaurants, museums, retail shops, marinas and some lodges/cabins. Again, that will be for in-state residents only, and the use of cabins will be restricted to Friday-Monday only.
• The Governor was asked about tomorrow’s expected announcement about the opening of restaurants. He refused comment, except to say people should listen tomorrow, and that guidelines are still be developed in cooperation with the industry.
• The Governor displayed a number of charts regarding how Arkansas is doing with the “gating criteria” recommended from the White House in an attempt to reach Stage 1 of re-opening. Based on the criteria, Hutchinson said it “looks positive” in terms of the trends and trajectory here in Arkansas.
• The overall positive rate since the start of the pandemic in Arkansas has been 7.5%. But the results of yesterday’s 1,506 test returns, the positive rate was only 1.8%. Dr. Smith speculated the lower rate was because of a loosening of testing criteria from when testing materials were harder to find.
• Test results continue to come in from Cummins Prison. There are now 856 inmates that tested positive, plus 50 staff members.
• With regard to the two-day testing surge, the Governor reported both days saw in excess of 1,500 tests. The 1,500 mark was the goal set. Those results should be returned over the next few days.
• The Governor reminded people at the end of the briefing the importance of maintaining social distancing and the use of masks when distancing is not possible.
• Gov. Hutchinson said the $5 million dollars in bridge loans has been exhausted so he is adding another $1 million dollars in funding to address the loans still in the pipeline.
April 22, 2020
• The Health Department shows 109 total cases in Garland County, with 67 recoveries.
• There is actually one less death than yesterday because one of the previously reported deaths, while occurring in Arkansas, was actually a person from Missouri.
• The first restriction to be lifted will actually be prior to the May 4th date. Elective medical procedures will be permitted starting this Monday with restrictions. The Health Department will outline those later today or tomorrow, but they are expected to include day surgeries only (out-patient), patients must be at least 14 days removed from contact with anyone who was Covid-19 positive, and must be tested and shown to be Covid-19 negative within 48 hours of the procedure.
• Other target dates for May 4th announcements are:
4/29 for Restaurants
4/30 for Gyms
5/1 for Hair salons and barbers
5/4 for Places of Worship and large venues, which could include sports.
• There is no target date announcement yet for casinos or lodging for recreational purposes.
• The Governor has formed another Task Force, this one to deal with testing, both capacity and utilization. Dr. Smith says the aim is to “lean into testing in a way that provides actionable information.”
For help if feeling suicidal: 800-273-8255.
April 19, 2020
• There are 42 new positive reports since yesterday, taking the total to 1,781. That does not count the increase at the Cummins Prison, which is reported separately (see below). Statewide, 721 people are reported as having recovered from Covid-19.
• The Governor has asked the Parole Board to look at prisoners being held for non-violent offenses or non-sexual offenses who have less than 6 months to serve on their sentence for possible early release.
• There was one additional death, taking total deaths to 38.
• The ADH reports 107 total cases in Garland County, 56 of whom have recovered so far.
• Testing numbers, for technical purposes, have NOT included those inmates who have tested positive at the Cummins unit of the Corrections Department. Over 1,000 inmates have been tested, and the ADH reports a total of 230 inmates are now positive, up from 83 yesterday. No guards have tested positive.
• The Governor announced the formation of the “Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force”, with representatives of a variety of business interests. Those include manufacturing, retail, small business, sports, tourism and faith based organizations. There will be 27 members to provide Gov. Hutchinson with advice, and to communicate government plans back to their various constituencies.
• The Governor also displayed one of the “quick test” units from Abbott labs, but reported a lack of reagents will impact how quickly they can be put to use. The units reportedly can provide results in 15 minutes from the time the swab is entered into the unit.
• The Governor also reported the use of Block Grant Money to help rural hospitals. 27 hospitals will share in $10 million. UAMS will also receive $500,000 to help pay for their enhanced statewide telehealth services.
April 17, 2020
April 16, 2020
• There were 51 new positive cases reported since this time a day ago, making 1,620 the total number of positives in Arkansas since the start of the pandemic.
• There are a total of 105 reported cases in Garland County.
• There were four new deaths since yesterday; two of the victims were over 65, two were under 65. That makes 37 reported deaths.
• 548 Arkansans have recovered from Covid-19
• When asked about what underlying conditions seem to have contributed the most, Dr. Nate Smith pointed to hypertension and uncontrolled Type II diabetes. He said there has “never been a better time to become a healthier version of yourself.”
• Dr. Smith said the committee is working on plans for when the current restrictions can be lifted safely. When asked what business areas might be first to have restrictions lifted, Governor Hutchinson said it would likely be hospitals, explaining the big back log of elective procedures, and the financial distress that has caused hospitals.
• There were no new numbers on positive cases in the Department of Corrections. Dr. Smith said he expected those later today.
• The Governor showed a chart regarding new unemployment filings. There were 34,635 people who filed the week ending 4/11. That was down from the record 62,086 the previous week.
• The state has rolled out a new website for unemployment information. It is ARunemployment.com. Commerce Secretary Preston notes there are still long hold times for people filing. The filing hours will now be 6am-6pm, but they will stop taking calls at 4pm so there is enough time to deal with the people already in the cue.
• There are two additional deaths, bringing to 32 the number of people who have died.
• As of 1:30 this afternoon, there are 101 people who have tested positive in Garland County.
• Governor Hutchinson said “Arkansas is not yet at its peak,” adding he is not ready to relax social distancing instructions and rules that have been put in place. As to when those will be relaxed, he said “We will do what’s needed in the best interest of Arkansans,” saying he’ll take his cue from health care professionals.
• When asked about comments from President Trump that he, the President, would say when things will open, Hutchinson said he understands the Presidents’ style, saying he likes to “gig or create controversy.” But Hutchinson said he would not surrender his prerogative as Governor to make the decisions for this state. He said cooperation has been good, and remarked that VP Pence is a former Governor and understands the position of Governors.
• There have been no additional positive cases at the Cummins prison unit; 43 were reported yesterday.
• The Governor also issued an executive order that will make first responders eligible for Workers Comp if their causation exposure to Covid-19 occurred while performing their official duties.
• Of those, there are 989 active cases. 74 of those are in hospitals, and 28 are on ventilators.
• 30 people have now died from Covid – 19 in Arkansas.
• After reporting no cases in Arkansas Correction Facilities on Friday, Dr. Smith reported an outbreak in one barracks at the Cummins Prison in Grady. 43 of the 46 inmates in a single barrack have tested positive. Dr. Smith says they do not know yet how the virus got in the prison, noting no guards have tested positive.
• While the severity is not known, at least one person who tested positive, was then determined to have recovered, has tested positive again in a hospital setting.
• The University of Washington projections have extended the peak date in Arkansas to April 29th.
• The Governor has appointed a Covid-19 “Post Peak Advisory Board” made up of physicians who will advise him on how/when restrictions can be lifted in Arkansas.
• When asked about President Trumps tweet this morning that, he, (President Trump) would be making the decision about lifting order, not the Governor, Hutchinson said that while there has been cooperation, “I don’t think they can do that.” He pointed out the while the Federal government has providing help, the President has instructed the states to deal with the problems created by Covid-19.
• There were two additional deaths reported, taking to 23 the total number of deaths in Arkansas.
• Gov Hutchinson and ADH Director Dr. Nate Smith did have a conference call with Dr. Anthony Fauci this morning. The Governor reported Dr. Fauci, after being shown the Arkansas numbers, was pleased with the Arkansas situation, saying it could be a “model” for what some other states could be doing, noting it would not be right for every state. Dr. Smith noted, during that call, the low numbers per 100,000 that Arkansas has reported when compared to other states in our region.
• With regards to Covid-19 deaths, when asked if all deaths of Covid-19 patients are being attributed to the virus, despite underlying conditions, Dr. Smith said they are.
• Regarding unemployment checks. Commerce Secretary Mike Preston reported that checks have been issued for those who reported Covid-19 related unemployment for the weeks ending 4/4 and 4/9. He also said the additional $600 per week payments are now included automatically.
• The Health Department will now report both the total number of cases and active cases. So, as of 1:30 today, there are 253 people who have recovered, 841 “active” cases, which means a total of 1,094 who have tested positive since this pandemic began.
• The number of cases in Garland County now totals 58.
• Both the Governor and Dr. Smith urged caution over the Easter Weekend, reminding people the importance of continued social distancing, hand washing, and not touching your face.
• The Governor showed new charts, including comparing Arkansas to border states about hospitalizations. Arkansas is at 2.6 people in the hospital for every 100,000. That is lower than all border states, significantly lower than some of those states.
• Mental health professionals in attendance say while this is a stressful time for all, it can also be particularly difficult for those who have existing mental health and/or substance abuse issues. There is a toll free number for those who desire help: 844-763-0198.
• The Governor said he is open to what is referred to as “no excuse” absentee voting this November, should the pandemic continue or reoccur in the Fall. It would take legislative action.
April 8, 2020
• There are now 1,023 people who have tested positive for the virus. Of those, 76 are hospitalized. The death toll remains at 18. There were no new deaths to report.
• When asked about a projection of the possible number of unreported cases, Dr. Smith said there is not a reliable forecast available for that. He added he was pleased that at this point, the number of positive cases is under 10% of those tested, and he points out most of the tests are in what health care professionals would put in the category of symptomatic, over age 65 or underlying conditions.
• Much of the briefing dealt with unemployment benefits. Commerce Secretary Mike Preston says over 110,000 have filed so far, and he expects that number to reach 150,000 by the end of the week.
• For self-employed, contract workers or “gig workers”, Preston says all states just received the rules for that kind of benefit payment on Sunday night. It will require the building of an all new system, and he estimated that will take three weeks. However, once working, Preston said benefit payments will be backdated to the date of lost employment due to Covid-19.
April 7, 2020
• The number of cases went up 71 since the same time a day ago; taking the number of total cases to 946 in Arkansas. There were two additional deaths reported, taking the total to 18.
• The number of cases in Garland County is now 46.
• Of the total cases in Arkansas, 134 are healthcare workers; 16 of them doctors and 41 nurses. The balance are other HC workers.
• Using the models from the Univ of Washington, the current model projects a peak in Arkansas will be in late April; however Hutchinson points out that could change with later models.
• With regard to testing, 1,400 tests were completed in the past 24 hours in Arkansas, the highest number in a one day period so far.
• The Governor provided a series of charts which show:
–the cases per 100,000 people in Arkansas are lower than our border states.
–the number of tests per 1,000 residents in Arkansas are higher than some border states, lower than others.
–the number of people per 1,000 hospitalized are lower in Arkansas than border states.
• The Governor has modified his executive order to give cities more latitude regarding curfews, park use and local orders as long as 1)they don’t impeded commerce, and 2) they are done in coordination with the Governors office.
• Dr. Smith said they will be providing “best practices” suggestions to retailers later today. He referenced Lowe’s as adding restrictions to the number of people admitted to the stores at any given time.
• The Arkansas Heart Hospital has received 500 “quick tests’, which will be used for Health Care Workers.
• The number of positive cases at the Federal prison in Forrest City has grown to 29; CDC officials are expected to arrive tonight. They will work with ADH officials on the best way to keep the virus from spreading into the surrounding area.
April 6, 2020
• The total number of people with Covid-19 in Arkansas now stands at 875, up 45 from this time yesterday.
• There are still 41 people who tested positive here in Garland County. That is the same number as yesterday at this time.
• No additional deaths, the total in Arkansas is still at 14.
• The Governor showed a chart saying Arkansas’ rate of growth has slowed. Arkansas had seen a doubling of the rate every 3 days. As of a couple of days ago, it most recently doubled over 7 days. The Governor and Dr. Smith pointed out social distancing must continue to keep the growth rate lower.
• Gov. Asa Hutchinson says classroom teaching is cancelled, and Alternative Measures of Instruction (AMI) will continue through the end of the school year. Schools had originally been scheduled to return April 20th prior to today’s announcement.
• High School Seniors who were in good standing through the 3rd nine-week period will qualify for graduation, subject to local requirements.
• Education Secretary Johnny Keyes was asked about actual graduation ceremonies. He said those will occur based on Department of Health guidelines and recommendations.
• The Education Department is working with the ACT officials to determine a new testing date.
April 4, 2020
• The number of people with Covid-19 grew by 39 from this time a day ago, taking to 743 the total number of people with the virus in Arkansas.
• Two additional deaths take the total to 14. Both of the new deaths were people aged 65+.
• According to the AHD website, there are now 40 people who have tested positive in Garland County.
• Dr. Smith reported there have been 1,040 test results in the past 24 hours, and the number of positive results amounts to 3.4% of those tested.
• Of the 743 positive cases in Arkansas, 106 are Health Care Workers. (14.2%)
• The Governor has issued another Executive Order, #20-13. It orders lodging owners (Hotel, Motel, VRBO to refuse occupancy to out of state recreational/leisure travelers.
• The Governor commended WalMart for its new rules limiting the number of people who can be in the store at a given time. (New today)
• Highway Department estimates say the interstate traffic flow is down 40% from the start of the pandemic.
• With regard to the CDC comments on wearing a mask, Dr. Smith said they (cloth, paper) are of limited protective value. But nonetheless, he said wearing such a mask would be good if you are in a public space because it would help prevent you from spreading the disease, pointing out you could have it and not show any symptoms.
April 3, 2020
• From Dr. Smith – he points out that while 60% of the positive cases are women, 62% of the ICU cases are men. He suggested there has never been a better time for people to get healthier, pointing out under lying conditions such as smoking, diabetes and others make contracting the virus even more serious.
April 2, 2020
The Governor displayed a chart showing that while the number of cases continue to grow, the graph shows the growth rate remains lower than what health care experts had projected. And, he pointed out that in states with “stay at home” orders, there are several exemptions. It is projected that in Arkansas, were he to issue such an order, over 700,000 people would still go to work due to being classified as working in “essential businesses.”
His bottom line was this: At this point, our rate of growth has flattened out, due in large part to the many targeted actions our state HAS taken. If you look at where we are compared to other states, our recent rate of growth is at least as good as those states that have shelter-in-place orders. When we need more, we will do more.
April 1, 2020
• Arkansas has had a total of 584 positive test results (up 61 from yesterday).
• Death toll up 2 today to a total of 10 in Arkansas. Both of the newly reported deaths were over the age of 65. One of them had an underlying condition according to Dr. Nate Smith.
• There are 31 positive cases in Garland County.
• The Governor reported testing in Arkansas has increased, with 903 tests conducted yesterday. To put that in perspective, that brings to 7,124 the total number of tests in Arkansas since the virus was first reported.
• The Governor announced a pilot project with Walmart and Quest Labs to start conducting drive through testing in NW Arkansas. This will primarily be for health care workers and first responders, with hopes it can be rolled out elsewhere based on the how it works.
• The Governor reported he’s asked the US Interior Department to close the National Park at the Buffalo River. That comes in the wake of people failing to social distance at the location. He pointed out that 60% of the license plates were from out of state. In addition, there will be new restrictions at Arkansas State Parks.
• For the self employed and “gig workers,” Commerce Secretary Mike Preston reported the Federal Government has not yet provided written guidance on how the pandemic benefits will work for those people. As a result, those kinds of unemployment applications cannot be processed yet. He suggested not applying until the Fed provide the State with the needed information.
March 31, 2020
· Age Breakdown: 17 are children, 348 are age 18-64, 158 are age 65 or older
· 79 are healthcare workers. Many have asked if this is because workers don’t have appropriate PPE. It may have been. We still have reports of facilities that don’t have access to PPE. Also, the highest risk is when a patient with few or no symptoms of COVID comes in and the care providers don’t immediately suspect COVID-19. In these instances, people are exposed before they think to put on the PPE. Once people know and are using the PPE, then the number of new healthcare workers infected, drops significantly. This means that we have to have a higher index of suspicion. But of course, first and foremost, we need more PPE which is being distributed now.
· Status breakdown: 64 are currently hospitalized (up 2 from yesterday). 23 are currently on a ventilator (up 2 from yesterday). We have one new death (an individual over 65 in Central Arkansas). 35 have recovered (up 6 from yesterday).
• Are we staying under our projected spread? Many of you may recall that last week’s projections estimated we would have 3500 positive tests by April 10. Under that projection, we were projected to be at 1000 positives by today, and we have about half that, so we are having some success in keeping the curve lower than we projected it would be.Of course, we’re not testing as much as we’d like to be, but these projections were actually made with an even lower test capacity in mind. Furthermore, as soon as we have a little more data, we will do projection lines with *hospitalizations* (rather than just positive tests), which will give us an even more precise picture. In other words, we know we’re not capturing all our positive cases with our testing numbers. But, since we know our numbers *are* capturing almost everyone who is *hospitalized* with COVID, once our projections are based on those, we will know even better how we are doing in terms of our projections v. reality.Let’s follow the guidelines, and continue to beat the projections. This WILL save lives and get us out of this crisis much quicker.
• State Parks: There are congregations of larger numbers of people along the Buffalo River and many of our state parks, largely due to out-of-state visitors. Social distancing guidelines are not being followed at these sites, and many of these visitors are coming from hotspots. So, the Governor is looking at ways to curtail recreational travelers from out of state into Arkansas. This may involve the closing of some state parks.
• Testing: Lab testing continues to be challenging because of the national shortage of reagents, so we are well below where we initially expected to be with tests at this point. Going forward, we now have personnel trained at ADH to continue processing tests 24/7.
• Hospital capacity: We are in the process of building surge capacity for hospitalized patients. National Guard planners are working to come up with how we can increase beds beyond what we have now, if we need those. The Governor has just authorized 40 additional National Guard Air and Army personnel to assist in that effort.
• Guidelines for after you have been exposed: Many of our essential workers may need to return to work after a positive test or a known exposure to COVID. Here’s what you need to know:· If you have tested positive but have not been sick enough to go into the hospital, once you are 7 days past the onset of your illness, and it has been at least 3 days since you’ve had a fever, then you are safe to return to work. In some situations (like healthcare workers taking care of high-risk patients), you may need to stay away from work longer.· If you’ve been exposed to someone who is positive but you have not had any symptoms, you need to wait 14 days, because that is the period of time between when someone gets exposed and when they first start to show symptoms.
• Bridge Loans for small businesses: We’ve had 275 applications for the bridge loan programs. Most of those are in the smaller loan category, which are direct AEDC loans, as opposed to going through the banks. We expect to have all $300 million of those loans out by next week, due to the demand.
• Suspension of in-person notarizations
The Governor has signed an Executive Order which suspends notary action in person. It allows notarizations to be done through audio and video means. This is limited to lawyers, notaries for title companies, and those supervised by them or by banks. This will allow people who need a will to create one, even if they are in isolation or otherwise wishing to avoid person-to-person contact.
*Thank you to Congresswoman Nicole Clowney for daily summarizing the Governor’s briefing, and offering insight into Arkansas’ current situation.
17 children, 307 adults ages 18-64, 149 adults age 65 or olderUnderlying conditions breakdown:
6 pregnant women, 37 who have diabetes, 36 who have heart disease, 22 chronic lung disease, 10 chronic kidney diseases, 12 with immune-compromising conditions.72 are related to domestic travel. 73 are healthcare workers.Status breakdown:
62 are hospitalized (up 19 from yesterday). 21 are on ventilators (up 5 from yesterday). There has been 1 additional death (over the age of 65 and nursing-home related), which brings the total to 7. Of the 473 total cases, 29 are now recovered.
• Increased urgency of social distancing: The ONLY responsible way to engage in responsible outdoor activities is if you can maintain a 6 ft. distance. We are seeing far too much outdoor activity that is breaking these guidelines and creating incredible risk for every single one of us. Dr. Smith reminds us that it is good to be out in the fresh air and sun. But do NOT do this if you cannot maintain the 6 ft. distance. Do not play football. Do not play basketball. Do not run side by side with 3 friends on a trail.
• In regards to the level & amount of testing, Governor Hutchinson said Arkansas still needs more testing “re-agents,” so some tests are being processed by hand, which slows the process.
• After a call with other Governors and the President this morning, the Governor said he expects Arkansas to receive $1.25 billion dollars in federal monies. He explained that money is to be spent on coronavirus-related relief. The Governor says he will form a 15 member task force to recommend how the money will be best spent.
March 26, 2020
• Cases: As of today, Arkansas has had a total of 335 positive test results.
· 14 are children
· 213 are adults age 19-64
· 108 are adults age 65 or older· We have 41 currently hospitalized. 13 are currently on ventilators. We have had one additional death, bringing it to a total of 3, all within Central Arkansas. We have 13 who are recovered.
· Dr. Nate Smith says that number seems higher because of a change in reporting from the hospitals.
• One of the more promising approaches to treating critically ill patients is giving them plasma from those who have recovered. So ADH is in the process of asking those who have recovered to volunteer to donate their plasma so it may help those who will become critically ill with COVID-19 in the future.
• The ADH directive prohibiting indoor social gatherings of 10 or more will be issued later this afternoon.
• In addition, the Governor and his team have found ways to tap additional federal dollars and waivers to provide direct financial grants to health care providers. That will include grants of $250 per week to $500 per week to nurses working with Covid patients; additional money for health care training, rural hospitals and nursing home facilities.
• Dr. Cam Patterson from UAMS says the team has arranged for deliveries of PPE gear to start as soon as Saturday.
· 3 million N95 masks
· 4 million surgical masks
· 4 million disposable gowns
· 2.1 million face shields
March 25, 2020
• Cases: 280 positive tests in Arkansas
· 13 children · 173 adults age 19-64 · 94 adults age 65 or older
· AR currently has 12 patients hospitalized. 4 are on ventilators. 41 are in nursing homes. 11 are now considered recovered.
• Testing: In addition to 280 positive tests, our state has seen 1,438 negative tests. Due to this increased testing, we are starting to have a more accurate picture about where we are.
• Secretary Smith from the Dept. of Health took a moment to address the critical importance of mental health and social cohesion during this time. He encouraged that we reach out to those who we know are going through this alone, or are feeling isolated as they’re trying to protect themselves and others.
• ???? New Social Distancing Directive ???? : In order for us to be successful in AR in slowing the upward trend line, the public needs to abide by the guidance of the Department of Health. One such guideline is that there should be, in indoor social gatherings, 10 or fewer. Most are abiding by this, but not all. The exceptions are endangering us all, so ADH IS IN THE PROCESS OF MOVING THIS GUIDELINE INTO A DIRECTIVE.What’s the difference between a guideline and a directive? A directive carries the power of law, so will give law enforcement the ability to disperse groups, should they see them. The official directive will come down from ADH in the next 24 hours or so, with all the details.
• Unemployment: There were over 9000 unemployment claims filed last week, 8000 so far this week, 700 just this morning. This volume of claims is unprecedented in AR history and they are processing them just as quickly as they can. The wait time on the telephone line can be as long as 25 minutes, but they’re working on upgrades daily. 1-844-908-2178
• Veterans: Secretary Nate Todd from the Department of Veterans Affairs had a message for veterans who are concerned about their health. The medical centers that support veterans have access to screen veterans on the phone or online. There are also testing capabilities at the VA, should you need a test.
March 24, 2020
“We are still only seeing the calm before the storm.” – Gov. Hutchinson
• Cases: As of today, Arkansas has had a total of 218 positive test results. Sadly, we have our first COVID-19 deaths, after 2 people passed away this morning (both in Central Arkansas, one person in their 50s, the other one older than 80.)
• There is solid evidence that smoking is a serious risk factor for COVID-19 deaths. If you are a smoker, please consider this emerging evidence carefully.
• PPE: Today, AR received 24 pallets of PPE from the national strategic stockpile. This includes 27,800 N95 masks.
Moreover, our state’s procurement team has ordered 1,000,000 units (combination of masks, aprons, gloves, etc…) that are scheduled to arrive this morning. This will cover us for the next 60 days at our current usage rate (which will, of course, increase over the coming weeks). Fortunately, we have more time to plan than other states have had, so we have time to build our state’s stockpile on beds and ventilators that we will surely need in the future.
• Contact Trails: We do not trace contact trails in Arkansas, because we should not be lulled into a false sense of security. We need to consider that any public space is a place where people can become infected. We have to be careful not to make ANY nonessential trips outside of our homes.
• Chloroquine: One more word on the dangerous demand for this drug. Dr. Smith noted that even a single adult tablet is enough to cause a fatal dose in children aged 4 and under. Do not use this medication to protect yourself from COVID-19. The costs aren’t worth it.
• A personal note from Congresswoman Nicole Clowney (the above info came from her daily update): “Finally, I want to close this recap with a reminder to all Arkansans out there, particularly the young and healthy. I know that it feels lonely to sit at home all day. But this is more serious a public health crisis than anything we have seen in our lifetimes. Serious times call for serious sacrifice. We have to sacrifice all the things that are dearest to us (yes, even time with one another) to help others who are in more danger, or who are not able to make the same sacrifices for whatever reason.“Make no mistake: This is hard. But it’s not optional. It is perfectly understandable to feel frustrated and bored and sad about this new (and temporary) normal. But please remember that all those sacrifices that you’re making? They are an EXTREME act of giving. And so, in addition to all those other feelings, please add pride. Because if you are following these most important social distancing guidelines, you should feel so proud that you are helping your community and literally saving lives.”
• Cases: As of today, Arkansas has a total of 174 positive cases (+9 from yesterday). Testing has focused on the nursing homes that have identified cases. There has only been one additional nursing home positive since yesterday.
• Additional shutdowns: In an attempt to stop the community spread, ADH is sending out a directive for barber and beauty shops, nail salons, massage therapists, and tattoo studios to temporarily cease operation.
• Hydroxychloroquine: Because of President Trump’s briefing the other day, a lot of Arkansans are trying to access Hydroxychloroquine. BE CAREFUL. Dr. Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health warns that there is little evidence that shows its effectiveness, and there are significant side effects and drug interactions that most physicians are not very familiar with. These drugs are FDA approved for other indications but NOT treatment of COVID-19. There is potential to cause serious harm by using these medications, which we have no evidence to support using.
• Tax Deadline: The Governor says the Arkansas deadline for INDIVIDUAL income tax payers will be extended until July 15th, to mirror the Federal Income tax revised deadline. Corporations and their estimated tax payments are still due at the original deadline.
• Don’t flush that!: The Hot Springs Utilities Dept has issued a warning to residents DO NOT FLUSH disinfecting wipes, paper towels, tissues, baby wipes, and many other things. they can cause massive blockages in the sewer system, can clog the pumps, and even cause them to burn out. Read more HERE
• Hot Springs City Manager Bill Burrough says all rumors of a city shutdown are untrue. He added there have been zero discussions to that effect. He assures the residents that he and County Judge Darryl Mahoney are in close contact, and he encourages residents to go to cityhs.net/covid-19 for information.
⋅ Age breakdown: 9 children, 32 are age 65 or older, 77 are ages 19-64
⋅ Status breakdown: 13 out of the 118 are hospitalized. 7 are in the ICU. 4 have been on a ventilator at some point
• Projections: Arkansas is likely to reach the peak in 6-8 weeks. At the peak, we’re likely to see around 1,000 patients hospitalized. Arkansas’s healthcare system *is* equipped to handle this number if it gets this bad, but it will create a real strain. So, our goal remains to continue to flatten the peak and to reduce the spread.
• Testing: Starting tomorrow UAMS will be doing 240 COVID-19 tests statewide per day. Next week, they will add an additional 500 per day for the state. Further, these tests will have a much more rapid turnaround time than currently exists.
• Taxes: The Governor said he is not prepared yet to say whether there will be a postponement of the state income tax deadline. He reminded us that Arkansas’ fiscal year is different than the federal government; and that unlike the federal government, our state constitution requires a balanced budget.The State wants to provide taxpayers relief, and is working on how to do that within the bounds of those details.
• Unemployment: The online portal for applying for unemployment is still glitching, because it’s tied to a national service that is doing the same. In the meantime, you can call your local office, or the state’s Department of Workforce Services at 1-855-225-4440 (weekdays only).
• The Governor said that he expects folks to, as far as they’re able, continue paying their rents and mortgages. He also called for “compassion” from those relying on those rent or mortgage payments.
March 20, 2020 – 3pm
There are now 96 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Arkansas. We were at 62 yesterday, so with increased testing, the jump to 96 is the biggest single day jump of positive results to date.
As you can see on the map (left), the number of cases in Garland County has also grown, to now somewhere between 5-9 cases as of the update today.
It should be noted that while we have 96 positives, there have been a total of 351 who had negative test results.
March 20, 2020 – 9am
• Garland County and the city of Hot Springs now have a COVID-19 call center open, 7 days a week from 8 am till 5 pm. The call center is designed to assess individuals from the area over the phone. After the assessment then operators will make recommendations based on the caller’s responses. The number is 501-760-4307.
• There are now 5 drive through clinics operating in Hot Springs and Garland County, to further evaluate those experiencing symptoms. Currently there are no COVID-19 tests or swabs available at the evaluation centers. Officials say when the equipment arrives they will let the public know. You are asked to call the Hotline for a telephone assessment BEFORE going to one of these screening sites.
⋅ Convenient Care Clinic – 100 McGowan Court next to CHI/St Vincent (M-F 7am-8pm. Sat/Sun 8am-8pm)
⋅ Convenient Care Clinic – HSV, 4419 Highway 7 North (M-F 730am-6pm. Sat 8am-3pm. No Sunday hours)
⋅ Lakeside Family Medicine – 124 Hollywood, near National Park Hospital (M-F 830am-5pm. No weekend hours)
⋅ First Care walk in – On Adcock Road just off Airport Rd (M-F 8:30am-5pm. Sat 9a-1p. No Sunday hours)
⋅ Fountain Lake Clinic – 4517 Park Ave (M-F 830a-5p. Sat/Sun 9a-1p)
This information is subject to change and you should call the Hotline number above for updates.
• Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announces that he has made a formal request for a disaster declaration for small businesses. This will open up loans up to 2 million. He is extending child care vouchers across the state, and has directed the Dept of Commerce to waive current work search requirements for 30 days. That will allow the unemployed to receive benefits without seeking other employment.
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announce that all visitor centers and campgrounds in the Vicksburg District are closing. The closures include all campgrounds on Lake Ouachita and Lake DeGray. All campers have been asked to be off the premises by Sunday afternoon.
• SCAM ALERT from the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management. They are warning citizens that there are people posing as employees of the CDC , and are going door to door offering COVID-19 testing! The scammers are asking for personal information and or money. The ADEM says no one will come to your home for testing. Do not give out personal information or money.
• Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announces that dining-in at all Arkansas restaurants is now prohibited. Take out or drive through or delivery are the only options.
• The Governor also announced that all Arkansas K-12 schools are ordered to remain closed an additional 3 weeks. They are now scheduled to reopen on April 20th. The Department of Education is working on plans regarding testing.
March 19, 2020 – 3pm
Based on the Governor’s press briefing today
• The positive cases in Arkansas now stand at 62. Of the 62 cases, six are 18 or under, 41 are 19-64 and 15 are 65+.
• K-12 schools will remain closed for an additional three weeks, now scheduled to re-open April 20. The Department of Education is still working on plans regarding testing.
• All restaurants are now ordered to stop dine-in services and provide only take out, drive through, or delivery.
• The Arkansas Department of Health map still shows Garland County with 1-4 cases. (Two cases were reported earlier this week. We don’t know if it remains are two or has gone to four)
March 19, 2020 – 9am
• The US and Canada agree to temporarily close their borders to nonessential travel. However, imports and exports will continue between the countries.
• President Trump says he will sign a “Defense production Act” in case it is needed to bolster resources for an expected surge in Coronavirus cases. He also said the Dept of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.
• Governor Asa Hutchinson reported that within just 7 hours, 4 more people have tested positive for the Coronavirus in Arkansas. The AR Dept of Health confirms that brings the case number to 37 within our state. The Gov said 3 additional cases are now reporting Covid-19. They are Washington, Faulkner, and Bradley counties.
The Governor added in his address that the state is allocating 12 million dollars to help businesses amid the crisis.
• The Garland County Election Commission has announced that ALL voting for upcoming runoff elections, will be limited to the election building on Ouachita Avenue. Officials are encouraging absentee voting. Deadline is March 30th.
• Hot Springs Board of Directors adopt an ordinance endorsing the Declaration of a State of Emergency. This gives City Manager Bill Burrough the ability to suspend local ordinances or regulations that interfere with disaster response, for up to 30 days.
• The Hot Springs Police Dept is temporarily closing its lobby to the public. Those needing to speak to an officer can press a call button in the foyer. Accident reports can be called in, or forms will be available in the foyer.