Daily Coronavirus News Updates

June 29, 2020

New cases down for 5th consecutive day, but Arkansas crosses the 20,000 total case mark. Here is the recap from today’s briefing:
• There were 439 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the fifth consecutive day of downward numbers. The cumulative total is now at 20,257. There are 5,926 active cases in Arkansas.
• There were 17 new hospitalizations, taking that total to 300. The Governor said he is hopeful that number will shrink if the number of new cases continue to go down.
• There was one additional death, making the death toll 265.
• The Governor said that while he thinks there is better compliance now with social distancing and the wearing of masks when compared to a month ago, he also fears some may be complacent, thinking they don’t need to act responsibly. He said nothing could be further from the truth. To that point, the Governor said he’ll present some specific messaging this Thursday in advance of the 4th of July holiday weekend.
• When asked about when the state might further lift restrictions, the Governor said he meets daily with Dr. Nate Smith and that is not a topic of conversation. The main conversations still remain about behaviors, testing, and tracing.
• The Governor was asked about comments he made yesterday on ABC regarding increased use of the defense production act for testing materials. He said that as state’s with big populations and outbreaks use more testing, it will stress not only testing agents, but the time it takes for the commercial labs to return results. The Governor said there is a need to look at that as a country, based on testing supplies, results, and the entire supply chain. Dr. Smith added that when testing results are delayed, it impacts the timeline and effectiveness of contact tracing.

June 26, 2020

• There are 678 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total to 18,740. There are no new hospitalizations so that total remains at 284. There were seven additional deaths, taking that total to 249.
• The Governor showed a chart suggesting that only two per cent of the cases come from people who report being at restaurants. Also, two per cent report being in churches. While Texas did announce a tightening of restrictions in bars and restaurants today because of their increased cases, Governor Hutchinson says the data here does not lead him to do that at this time. With regard to churches, he showed a map with dots to demonstrate a number of churches that had outbreaks of two or more members, and urged worship leaders to be mindful of the state guidance.
• Gov Hutchinson said he’s ordered ABC inspectors to report to the Health Department when they see bars/restaurants that are not complying with the directives.
• When asked to respond to a restaurant owner who said customers get angry with his staff when they are told to follow the guidance, the Governor said “Shame on those customers” and added “you’d have to be asleep under a log not to know” what’s expected regarding masks.
• Regarding National Guard drills involving thousands of soldiers at Ft. Chaffee, the Governor said that is going to happen, and Arkansas is comfortable with the protocols that will be in place as outlined by the Guard HQ in Washington DC.
• Regarding no-excuse absentee balloting based on the comments of the Sec of State yesterday, the Governor said he’ll look into it, but if as stated, he thinks that answered the question. The reporter quoted the Sec of State as saying voters could ask for an absentee ballot if they fear voting in person because of the pandemic.

June 25, 2020

• There were 687 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the Arkansas cumulative total to 18,062. That’s a total of 2,501 new cases in the past four days alone.
• There were 17 new hospitalizations in the past 24 hours, to a new record of 284, continuing the upward trend. Dr. Smith said NW Arkansas still has the biggest growth in hospital cases, noting hospitalizations lag behind test results.
• There were two additional deaths, taking the death toll to 242.
• Again, counties in NW Arkansas lead the new cases, but the Governor believes the curve there is starting to flatten based on the increased testing and tracing. While there are still new cases, the numbers are not as high as they were.
• In addition, the Governor believes the citizens in NW Arkansas are, at least anecdotally, taking the virus more seriously regarding social distancing and the wearing of masks. He believes the combination of the Health Department response and the public response is what’s helping to bend the curve.
• The Governor praised the Springdale Chamber of Commerce for producing signs that say “Protect & Respect. Wear a mask.”
• The Governor says he doesn’t believe it’s time to mandate the use of masks, saying while there is growing awareness and acceptance, imposing a law might lead to more resistance to masks. (Note: Dr. Smith said in an earlier briefing more people wearing a mask voluntarily is better than a law with low compliance). When asked about the analogy between masks and seat belts, Hutchinson pointed out it took years of education before seat belt laws became effective.
• When asked about Texas pausing the next scheduled lifting of restrictions because of case growth, Gov Hutchinson pointed out Arkansas is already at a pause regarding the further lifting of restrictions. He does not believe rolling back restrictions would be beneficial, and said such a rollback would cause harm to some, pointing to more unemployment as a result. He repeated that Arkansas needs to be balanced in the approach, and citizens have to be mindful of their responsibilities at this time.
• With regard to pending Arkansas National Guard training later this summer, the Governor said that is a shared decision between the state and the Guard training bureau in Washington DC. The bureau has submitted a health plan for review by the Arkansas Health Department. While that plan has been reviewed and approved, the final decision has not been made yet.
• With regard to absentee ballots for the November election, the Governor said he is still waiting for input from both state election officials and county officials before making a decision, which he said he’ll make by August 1.

June 24, 2020

697 new cases, Arkansas travelers to NY, NJ and CT will be required to self-quarantine, and more money requested for contact tracers. Here is a recap of the daily Covid 19 brief:
• There were 697 new Covid 19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total to 17,375. In the new numbers, Dr. Smith says 168 of them are at the State Correctional Facility in Malvern, with more test results still to come.
• There were 19 new hospitalizations, taking that total to a record 267.
• There were 3 deaths, taking that total to 240.
• The Governor said the rising cases present a challenge for the contract tracing. The Governor will ask the CARES committee and the legislative council for funding to hire a second group of 350 contract workers for contact tracing. That is on top of the first group of 350 and the over 200 Health Department employees.
• Arkansas is now one of several states on a list from NY, NJ and CT that require visitors to self quarantine upon arrival. That’s because the listed states have the largest number of new cases per population. The Governor said that points to the need for Arkansans to also be careful when they travel.
• When asked why the numbers are still growing in Arkansas, the Governor suggested the virus continues to grow in other states as well. He pointed to California, which was early to “lock down” and that state is also seeing a resurgence of the virus. He also said he believes the strategy of testing and tracing is the right course. He said the tactics of testing and tracking is helping in NW Arkansas. He said the number of new cases there has slowed due to the tactic. Dr. Smith added that limited the numbers also depends on citizens to take the recommended steps of avoiding crowds without distancing, wearing masks in public, and hand hygiene.
• The Governor was asked about cases in poultry plants and whether they should remain open, the Governor said yes. He said the plants are a vital part of the food chain, and said plant owners continue to do their own testing and tracking.

June 23, 2020

595 more cases, 10 additional deaths, concern about the upcoming 4th of July, and Covid Projections. Here is the recap from a busy June 23 briefing:
• There were 595 new positive cases over the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total to 16,678. Of those new cases, 212 were in correctional facilities; some in the Benton County Jail, and others at the Ouachita Corrections Facility in Malvern. The Health Department said there are still more results to come from Malvern.
• There were 11 new hospitalizations, taking that total to 248, a new high.
• There were 10 additional deaths, taking the death toll to 237.
• There were two items of note regarding projections. The first is that actual cases in Arkansas exceeded the projections earlier this month. The other is that the “mean” case estimates is for over 133,000 cases in Arkansas about September 30. That projection also shows a over 3,300 Arkansans will need hospitalization.
• The Governor pointed out the September 30th projection is based on the current trajectory, and he and health department officials are hopeful they can change the trajectory with increased testing, tracking and isolation aimed at breaking the chains of transmission. The Governor said he believes the state is doing all it can to bend the curve.
NOTE: We have posted the projection chart below, along with the graph that shows where actual cases crossed over the projections earlier this month.
• Regarding the continued case increases in NW Arkansas, Dr. Smith said CDC experts are staying longer than most visits, much of that helping with “deep dives” into the data to help find information about where to focus, in order to break the transmission chains.
• Dr. Smith was asked about possible concerns regarding the upcoming 4th of July weekend. He said if we learned nothing from the increases we saw after the Memorial Day crowds/behaviors, than we’ll see the same thing after the July 4th holiday weekend.
• On the topic of pending hate crimes legislation being drafted on behalf of some lawmakers, the Governor said if it is in the form he supports, he will sign it. He applauded lawmakers for undertaking the legislation, noting Arkansas is one of only four states without laws calling for enhanced penalties for such crimes.

On the chart below, the dark orange is the projected cases, the lighter orange represents actual cases.

June 22, 2020
Another day with over 500 positive cases, including an outbreak at the Ouachita River Prison Facility in Malvern.
There were 522 new positive cases reported in the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total to 16,083 since the start of the pandemic.
There was a negative seven net hospitalizations, taking that total to 237.
There were two deaths, taking that total to 184.
85 of the new cases were at the Ouachita River Prison Facility in Malvern. Dr. Smith said there were reports of symptomatic inmates over the weekend. Dr. Smith says the Health Department is being aggressive about testing staff and inmates. The Dept. of Corrections website says the facility has a capacity of over 1,700 inmates. Smith says they have tested about 800 people so far, and results are still coming in. He does not have a report on the percentage of positive cases.
The Governor, along with hospital administrators, talked about hospital capacity. Regarding ICU beds statewide, of the 970 total ICU beds, there are 222 still available. Of all hospital beds statewide, 71.4% are occupied.
Dr. Smith said the state received word that some of the testing kits from the Department of Human Services are flawed. The Governor acknowledges there may be a pressure point, and the state is adjusting to that.
There were 7,049 tests in the past 24 hours. The state crossed over the testing goal of 120,000 over the weekend.
On the topic of using masks and whether they should be required, Dr. Smith says a requirement with low actual usage is not as good as a recommendation with high usage. But, he added, there is no doubt that increased mask usage leads to lower transmission.
On projections. Dr. Cam Patterson said that while the UAMS model and the UW model don’t agree on numbers, they both line up regarding a peak in late September. He said the models can’t predict mitigation efforts. He used the analogy of weather forecast models. He said when various models line up, that’s something to focus on.

June 19, 2020
Arkansas hits an all time high for new cases in a single day; additional pay for ambulance/EMT technicians; and general guidance on face masks. Here is a recap from the Friday, 6/19 briefing.
There were 703 new cases in the past 24 hours, only 41 of which were in corrections facilities. That’s the single biggest day of new infections in the community since the start of the pandemic. We don’t have an update on specific Garland County numbers at this time.
There were five additional hospital cases, taking the total to 231. There were six additional deaths, taking the death toll to 214.
This is the 2nd Friday with 700+ cases. Allowing for incubation periods, Dr. Smith said the Health Department is looking at weekend activities as a possible link. He mentioned people at houses of worship where people do not wear masks as a possibility for the spread. He again said there is nothing yet to link the continued increases to the re-opening of businesses.
The state is issuing general guidance (not an enforceable directive) about using face coverings. The slide is below. The Governor said he is hopeful Arkansans will use the guidance as a way to help mitigate the virus spread. The Governor said he did get a complaint about a restaurant where staff were not wearing masks, and the Health Department will be visiting that restaurant. When asked about why he’s not making it an enforceable directive, the Governor conceded the state does not have the ability to provide that much enforcement. He also repeated that he believes when Arkansans are provided with the information, they will make the proper choices. Dr. Nate Smith said again, when it comes to wearing a mask, “I wear one to protect you, and you wear one to protect me.”
With regard to a report saying Arkansas needs even more contact tracers, Dr. Smith said we do need more. The state is adding 350, which will more than double the number on staff. He also said we have to plan for “not where the puck is, but where the puck will be in the future.” And he said the level of training and the software makes the tracers more efficient than using more people with less training.
The Governor announced the approval of additional pay for EMT’s and those who work on ambulance crews. It will be just over $10 million dollars, the amount per person based on the number of hours they worked. The money will be distributed to employers, who will then pay the workers. That means employees should not expect to see it immediately.
With regard to projections/modeling that shows a big increase in Arkansas at the end of September, Dr. Smith said the modeling has proven to be a math challenge; he noted that many of our increases have been in small clusters or upticks, not uniformly statewide. That makes the modeling more difficult.
The Governor was asked again about people going to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa tomorrow. He said the rally will be a real test regarding how it’s conducted, and is hopeful people will wear masks and social distance. He repeated what he said yesterday, that if that doesn’t occur, he hopes people who attend will get tested when they return to Arkansas. And he added if there is not social distancing, he hopes people who attend will wear masks. (Note: Rally officials say they will provide masks, but as of this posting, there is no requirement that they be worn.)
The Governor opened the briefing by acknowledging that today is Juneteenth. When asked about Confederate statues at the state capitol, he said that will fall under the authority of the General Assembly.

June 18, 2020
11 additional deaths in the past 24 hours, an extension of the emergency powers, and a reminder to cities about local ordinances. Here is a recap of the Thursday, 6/18 Covid-19 briefing:
There were 322 new positive cases reported over the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total of Covid-19 cases to 13,928. 4,344 of those cases are active. Once again, the biggest number of positive cases by county were in Washington and Benton Counties.
Yesterday’s Garland County numbers had an increase of 3 cases, taking active cases to 30 in Garland County.
There were 9 additional hospitalizations statewide, taking that total to a record 226.
There were 11 new deaths reported, taking that total to 208. The Governor pointed out that 10 of the 11 were over 65 years of age, and he hoped younger people would remember the vulnerability of other older people they are around and take appropriate cautions.
The Governor’s Emergency Covid-19 related Order was set to expire tomorrow. He announced today he will extend it for an additional 45 days.
In that announcement, he pointed out his order specifically says cities/counties are prohibited from passing ordinances that are more restrictive than the state rules/guidelines. Without mentioning the Fayetteville and Little Rock ordinances, the Governor said, when asked, he does not intend to take action regarding those city ordinances.
He also pointed to a portion of the emergency powers that says the sole authority for forced quarantines or orders of isolation sit with the Department of Health.
When asked about the President’s rally in Tulsa, the Governor said he would not attend. He did say I think “it’s a great idea.” Regarding Arkansans who choose to attend, the Governor said if the rally attendees do not practice the use of face masks and social distancing, he hopes when people return to Arkansas, they will be tested for the virus.
With regard to the UAMS projections of significant case increases by the end of September, the Governor said he receives new projection numbers every week. The high numbers are considered “worst case” projections, and he said those are mitigated by the public health steps that are taken.
Asked again about masks, the Governor said the wearing of a mask is a public health issue, not a political issue.
With regard to the Emergency Order relating to protests and the “Unified Command,” the Governor announced he is ending that order.

June 17, 2020
415 new cases, taking the cumulative total to 13,606. There were 3 new hospitalizations, taking the total to 217. There were nine more deaths, taking the total to 197. 4,413 are active cases; 147 active cases are in nursing home,s and 676 are in correctional facilities.
NW Arkansas continues to lead the new case numbers. 90 of the cases were in Washington County (Fayetteville & Springdale), and 81 in Benton County (Bentonville).
New numbers for Garland County are not posted yet. GC was at 27 active cases at this time yesterday.
The Governor said long term care facilities/nursing homes will re-open for family visits on July 1st. There will be strict guidelines for those visits. Not all facilities may be ready by that date. If you plan a visit, you’re best advised to check with the facility.
The Governor said he did not agree with the emergency ordinance passed in Fayetteville regarding the requirement for masks when people go into a business. He said he would not interfere, but hoped other cities would not follow that path. The Governor said he still believes citizens should understand the importance of masks and social distancing and take those measures. He also said he doesn’t want to see 50 different cities pass 50 different ordinances.
On contact tracing, Dr. Smith and the Governor talked about speeding up the use of a private contractor to help, as the positive results continue to average in the 400’s each day.

June 16, 2020
Governor Hutchinson did his briefing in Hot Springs today. Here is a recap:
The Governor was complimentary of the efforts and results to mitigate Covid-19 in Garland County and Hot Springs. He met with community leaders prior to the briefing. He also toured the Vulcan manufacturing plant that pivoted from sporting goods to now manufacturing masks. In addition, the Governor showed an overhead photo of the concert last week at Magic Springs. He was complimentary of the park for staging the concert in a way that was safe (social distancing of within the crowd), and demonstrated the ability to get out and enjoy life.
There are 274 new Covid-19 cases, taking the cumulative total to 13,191. There were eight additional hospitalizations, taking that total to 214. There were six additional deaths, bringing that total to 188.
While he did not talk about the percentage of positive test results statewide today, he did concede the number is too high in Benton and Washington counties. (over 10%). He also said the state may have to consider a more targeted response in certain areas if the positivity rate grows in those areas.
When asked about schools again, the Governor said we “cannot afford to lessen our commitment to education,” and the Education Department is still working to figure out a healthy environment for the start of the school year.
The Governor says all residents and staff at 150 long term care facilities have been tested so far this month. There are still 250 facilities to test. Of those 13,000 tests, the positivity rate was only 0.9%. Once completed, plans for allowing visits to nursing homes will be rolled out. He pointed out the low rate shows that “protection and behavior” make a difference.
When asked why some people still refuse to wear masks or social distance, the Governor replied it’s human nature. He did say it takes on a political statement for some. He suggested that if you go to an establishment that does not set a good example, you might consider going somewhere else. He said we should “support those who are doing the right things” and shop at those businesses.

June 15, 2020
416 new cases – more expected – and Executive Orders instead of a special session. Here is a recap of the Covid-19 briefing:
There are 416 new cases in Arkansas, taking the total to 12,917 cumulative cases. Of those, 4,383 are “active”.
There are five additional hospitalizations, taking the total to 206.
**UPDATED AT 4PM – There is one additional active case in Garland County since yesterday, taking the active cases here to 27.
There were three additional deaths statewide, taking the total to 182.
The Governor said he expects more cases as the week goes on, and all Arkansans have to recognizes the situation is “serious”. He added that we all have a “morally social responsibility” to do the right things, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.
Again, many of the cases are in NW Arkansas, many related to the poultry industry. But it was also pointed out that 18 of the cases are in only seven families, noting the quick spread of the virus.
The Health Department repeated that there is nothing to show a causal relationship between the rising cases and the opening of businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and gyms. The Governor said that while there are “outliers,” he believes most business owners want to do the right things to maintain the patron base of the business.
The Governor said he recognized there is a temptation to “let our guard down” because we are in Phase II. He repeated the need to continue to take precautions as noted above.
The Governor also announced three new executive orders regarding liability coverage for business. The Executive Orders come after a decision that the legislature sees the need for the help, but it was not wise to call a special session during the pandemic. The Executive Orders will expire at the end of the pandemic. The orders are as follows:
#1 – Workers Comp Coverage – in this order, Covid-19 is considered an “occupational disease” under the law, but there must be a causal connection between employment and the disease. The Governor conceded that proving that relationship would be a “challenge.”
#2 – Liability waiver for Health care workers and providers, saying emergency workers are immune from civil liability, but such immunity does not extend to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct.
#3 – All businesses and their employees are immune from civil liability as a result of Covid-19, but again, the immunity does not apply to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct. There is a presumption that the actions are not willful or reckless of the business substantially complies with public health directives.
The Governor said that while he’s aware of many liability cases being filed in other states, he’s not aware of any filed in Arkansas, but noted the courts had not been operated until last week.

June 12, 2020
Today was the biggest one day increase in Arkansas; The Governor has no second thoughts on lifting restrictions Monday; and a reminder about the critical need for masks and hand washing going forward. Here is the recap of the Friday, June 12 Covid-19 briefing:
731 new cases statewide in the past 24 hours. That is the biggest single day increase yet. The cumulative total is now 11,547. There are 3,764 active cases. See chart showing the uptick (below).
16 new hospitalizations taking the total to 203, 49 of which are on ventilators.
5 additional deaths, taking that total to 176.
We don’t have new Garland County numbers yet. We were at 19 active cases as of this morning.
A startling number from Tyson Foods. The company tested 1,100 people in one plant and found 199 positive cases. Of the 199, only ONE had symptoms at the time of the testing. The Governor pointed out again those numbers demonstrate the importance of social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, because of the ability of asymptomatic people to infect others. He asked people to think about where those people might have been the previous day and the number of people who might be impacted.
The Governor was asked again if the numbers gave him a reason to rethink going to Phase II on Monday. The Governor said no because there is no indication the increases are linked to the easing of restrictions.
The big increase causes the need for more contact tracers; to that end, the Governor has authorized 20 members of the national guard to be activated to work on contact tracing.
The Governor also said he fully expects numbers to continue to increase next week.
The Governor says “we can do better” on things like social distancing and other reduction tactics. He said it’s hard to project what the situation will be in August, and noted “this is difficult for anyone who is working on strategy.”

June 11, 2020
• “We have to learn to manage the risks from this virus,” stated Governor Hutchinson at today’s briefing, when asked if he made the decision too soon to move to Phase II on Monday. He also said, “we don’t want to cause more damage to people’s lives or livelihoods.” He added, nothing in the lifting of restrictions “should diminish the seriousness of this virus,” stressing again the importance of social distancing, hand washing, and masks.
• 448 new cases, 6 additional hospitalizations, and 6 additional deaths since yesterday’s report.
• Totals: 10,816 cumulative cases, 187 in the hospital, 171 deaths.
• 221 of the new cases are from Washington and Benton counties alone.
• Dr. Smith says many cases are from poultry plants and the Latino community. He says there are experts from the CDC coming to help with the outbreak in the Latino community.
• There was not much information on the discussion regarding schools for the fall. Dr. Ivy Pfeffer, the Deputy Director, says local districts are being encouraged to form local planning groups. She said the Department of Education is working to provide flexibility to allow both in classroom instruction combined with remote teaching.
• Dr. Smith said they are still gathering information regarding how/if there are transmissions among children, and they will apply the latest scientific data prior to the start of the school year.

June 10, 2020
“We are turning the responsibility [of virus protection] to people and companies.” Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Arkansas Surgeon General
• Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas will go to Phase II effective Monday, June 15. That means businesses, like restaurants, can go to 66% capacity starting Monday.
• Hutchinson says he is extending his emergency order, which would have expired later this month, for another 45 days. That allows the State to maintain the limitations guidelines. All the new guidelines will be posted on the Arkansas Health Department by Friday.
• There were 288 new cases since yesterday, 60 of them in corrections centers. There were four additional deaths (total of 165) and eight new hospitalizations (181 total).
• The Governor, Dr. Smith and Dr. Bledsoe all say social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing remain very important.
• The Governor says they are still working on school plans for the Fall. One of the key components will be transportation. Final guidance is not ready yet.

June 9, 2020
Arkansas cases top 10,000 and Phase II announcement tomorrow. Here is a recap from today’s Corona briefing with Governor Hutchinson.
There are 340 additional cases, taking the cumulative total to 10,080 cases. There were 6 additional deaths, taking the death toll to 161. There are 3,044 active cases in the state.
Governor Hutchinson says he will make an announcement tomorrow regarding Phase 2, and what restrictions could be lifted and when. He did not say whether the announcement would be a statewide move or based on the five different Health Department regions in Arkansas.
He mentioned he gets many letters on both sides of how lifting restrictions should be handled; some from people who say he’s moving too slowly and others from people who say restrictions have been lifted too quickly.
He said the second wave of cases Arkansas is experiencing right now came as a surprise, saying he thought the next wave would be in the Fall. He said that shows just how unpredictable the virus is.

June 8, 2020
From briefing on Covid today:
+314 cases, taking cumulative total to 9,740.
Hospitalizations grow by 26 to a record 171, plus one additional death taking the total to 155.
Governor says he is not yet ready to go to Phase II openings by region, saying the virus is not predictable.
Most of the increases are still in NW Arkansas.
Dr. Smith says only 2% of new cases visited a restaurant, less than 1% to barber shop, and under 1% to gym. Smith says that doesn’t mean that’s where they got the virus, simply that they had visited those facilities.

June 5, 2020

226 new cases, record hospitalizations and more focus on contract tracing – here is a recap of the Friday briefing:
• There are 226 new Covid-19 cases since yesterday, taking the cumulative cases to 8,651.
• There were 10 additional hospitalizations, taking the total to a record of 147 people in Arkansas. People over 65 make up only 15% of infections, but over 70% of hospitalizations.
• There are no new reports for Garland County.
• There were 3,846 total tests with a positive rate of 3.1%. The Governor explained the numbers from previous days are corrected as they are available, noting the 3.1% will likely be higher tomorrow. The number of positive cases reported and the number of tests reported are not from the exact same time period, often differing by several hours, and that is why they are updated.
• The Governor said again he will address early next week the plan for possible regional move to Phase II restrictions.

• The Governor said they are still building the contact tracing infrastructure for use into the Fall and beyond if needed. The Health Department currently has 240 people working on contact tracing. This has led to 412 people being contacted. Dr. Smith says there are volunteers who will start being trained next week, and he hopes to add an additional 350 contact tracers via a request for proposal next week which could be working within a month.

June 4, 2020
Another day of big increases – and discussion of the next phase by region. Here is a recap of today’s Covid-19 briefing:
• There were 358 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the past 24 hours. Over half were from two counties, 111 in Washington County and 92 in Benton County.
• There were nine deaths reported, however Dr. Smith noted five of those were from nursing homes in previous days that just got reported.
• There were 4,350 tests performed. The positive rate was 5.2%. Again, that calculation is not based on only the tests reported in the past 24 hours, but are based on a slightly different time line.
• The Governor showed a map of the new cases, and charts that show NW Arkansas is having the spike in cases, where the other four health regions are lower and some are going down. That has prompted questions about the chances of going to Phase II by region rather than dealing with that decision for the entire state. While he has resisted the suggestion in the past, the Governor says they are taking a fresh look at that. He expects to make that decision next week, noting “it might not happen”. But he said we must have “an honest evaluation to make that decision.”
• On reports of seven ASU Athletes testing positive for the virus after just returning to campus, the Governor said athletes are coming from many different areas; that it’s “not a surprise,” to be expected, and it may happen on other campuses as well. He said the various universities have plans and are ready to deal with it.

June 3, 2020
The Governor holds two briefings – one on Covid-19, and one on police response to protests. Here is the Wed, June 3 recap.
On Covid-19:
• 249 new cases, taking the cumulative total to 8,067. There are 93 additional “active” cases, taking that total statewide to 2,208. 6 more deaths, taking the death toll to 142.
• Of the new cases, 33 were in Pulaski County, 28 in Washington County, 23 in Sevier County and 20 in Benton County. Again, many in the poultry industry.
• When asked about specific reasons for continued increases, Dr. Smith said cases related to business being reopened account for under 1% of the cases, a figure he checks twice per week. He said the biggest area of virus spread relates to family and gatherings along with the workplaces.
• There was much focus in the briefing on nursing homes. Dr Smith reported that nursing home residents account for only 5% of the cases, but 39% of the deaths, calling residents “very vulnerable” for severe cases.
• The Gov. joined other Governors to discuss nursing homes and Covid for a Congressional hearing yesterday. Arkansas numbers are lower than the national average when using cases or deaths per 1000 residents.
• The Department of Human Services and the industry are working on guidelines for reopening nursing homes for family visits. They are not ready to announce a date yet, but are working on procedures to make that happen.
On the “Unified Command” briefing held just prior to the Covid Briefing:
• Demonstrations in Little Rock well after the curfew last night led to 79 arrests. Gov. Hutchinson reported all of them were Arkansas residents. He said they had intelligence of outside forces coming to Little Rock, but noted those instigators had a “way of getting other people arrested but not themselves.”
• The Arkansas State Police Commander, Col. Bill Bryant showed reporters a fist sized rock used to strike a trooper; an unexploded incendiary device; two of those arrested had 9mm handguns; they also found a sprayer loaded with gas, and bricks that were pre-placed in bushes for use by demonstrators, and shell casings from discharged weapons earlier in the week.
• The Governor said that while protesters were out after the curfew, the decision to start arresting violators did not come until demonstrators used a brick from a restaurant landscape area to smash the restaurant window.
• With regard to reporters who were credentialed and still detained, the Governor said they had the right to be working past curfew and noted that once they were properly identified, they were released. There was one reporter from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and two from KATV television. A Democrat Gazette reporter was injured during the protests earlier this week when he was hit in the head by an object; that required transport to an emergency room.
• The Governor repeated an earlier theme that protesters have a right to be heard, and he does not expect police action until/unless they become destructive or break other laws.

June 2, 2020
The biggest one-day uptick in positive cases, largest hospitalization number, and the Governor was at the protest command center last night. Here is a recap of the briefing for Tuesday, June 2.
• 375 new Covid-19 cases reported since yesterday, the biggest one-day jump in cases. That takes the cumulative total to 7,818 in Arkansas. 2,115 of those are active.
• There were 11 new net hospitalizations, taking that total to 132, the biggest number yet. 31 of them are on ventilators.
• There were 3 additional deaths, taking the death toll to 136 statewide.
• The new numbers for Garland County are not yet posted. Garland County was at three active cases at this time yesterday.
• The Governor pointed out the increased testing, especially combined with contact tracing is part of why the increase remains so big. He has set a goal of 120,000 tests statewide in June.
• NW Arkansas is still where the spike is centered, with 122 cases in Benton and Washington counties alone. There was also a jump in Pulaski County of 63 cases. 46% of those at a nursing home in Jacksonville.
• The positivity rate from yesterday was 4.4%. Dr. Smith was asked about the calculation, noting the day by day chart that is displayed showed a higher rate in previous days than had been reported. Dr. Smith explained the numbers are based on total results known at the time of the briefing, and don’t match the number of tests reported. Those numbers are updated on the charts as the information is available.
• REGARDING PROTESTS – Governor Hutchinson revealed that he was at the police command center in Little Rock during last night’s protests. He said it was instructional for him, learning that his initial thoughts on how to respond might have led to an escalation. He repeated his comments of yesterday, saying he thought police did a good job of protecting the rights of protesters, but that it would be “intolerable” to allow destruction of property. He reported five people were arrested last night at the Little Rock protest, all five from Arkansas.
• When asked, the Governor said he has not asked for federal military assistance. He believes use of the Arkansas National Guard is sufficient.
• When asked, the Governor said there has not been a federal request for use of Arkansas National Guard troops. However, he did say he received what he called a “preliminary inquiry.”
• The Governor showed a news photo of a protest in NW Arkansas from yesterday. He noted that while protesters were not social distancing, most of them were wearing masks, which he commended. On that topic, Dr. Smith said in the event of Covid spread from demonstrations, contact tracing would be difficult because protesters might not be able to identify who they were close to during the protest. Smith added it would be tragic to protest the injustice that occurred, only to end up with the virus as a result.

June 1, 2020
NW Arkansas driving the numbers in the state, 190 new cases statewide, and a statement on protests. Here is a recap from today’s briefing:
• 190 new Covid cases since yesterday, taking the cumulative total to 7,443. Of those, 1,909 are active.
• There were six new hospitalizations, taking that number to 121. Of those, 45 are in the NW Arkansas region.
• There were no new deaths reported today.
• There are no new Garland County metrics reported. As of yesterday, there are only three active cases in Garland County..
• Almost 400 of the current active cases are in the poultry industry. Gov. Hutchinson met with representatives of that industry, and says they are doing a good job of providing a protected workplace. He said the increase is in both the poultry plants and communities.
• 43% of the cases in NWA are also in the Latino community, many of whom are employed in poultry processing. The Governor said he also met with members of the Latino community to understand how to better reach members to discuss testing, tracing and treatment.

• With regard to protests around the state, he will hold a 4pm press briefing on that. He did open with a statement, however. He said protesters clearly have the right to march as long as they do it in a respectful and peaceful way. He said violence and destruction are not acceptable, and are counter to the message protesters are trying to convey.

May 29, 2020
Record hospitalizations, record single day deaths, and continued upticks in NW Arkansas; here is a recap from today’s Covid-19 briefing.
• 239 new positive cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 6,777. There are 1,699 active cases, down 131 from yesterday.
• There were 7 deaths in the past 24 hours. That is the biggest one day death total since the start of the pandemic. That means a total of 132 fatalities.
• There were 9 additional hospitalizations, bringing that total to 113, the biggest number since the beginning, according to our records.
• The big uptick in cases is in NW Arkansas. There were 53 cases in Washington County and 38 cases in Benton county. That is 38% of the new cases in those two counties alone.
• Dr. Nate Smith says many of those cases are in food processing plants, and they continue to find many cases in the Latino community. He said 400 of the active cases are in food processing/poultry facilities.
• The Governor asked for contact tracing to gather information to see if the uptick is related to the reopening of business. Of those cases, when asked where the people had been in the past 14 days: 1% in restaurants, 2% in barber shops/hair salons, less than 1% in churches, 1.5% in day care or gyms and less than .5% in hotel/motels.
• There were 2,702 test returns, with a positive rate of 4.1%.
• Dr. Smith said about 1/2 of those who tested positive were asymptomatic at the time of their tests.
• Many of the new positive cases are in people well under 65. The Governor said he’d like more information on whether those people have underlying conditions. Dr. Smith pointed out underlying conditions do not have an impact on whether you get the virus, but does impact how serious a case you could get.
• When asked about locations and your chance of getting the virus, Dr. Smith said the “where you go” is not as important as “what you do when you get there,” such as social distancing and the use of masks.
• With regard to the pictures of people not social distancing on Lake Hamilton last weekend, the Governor said that was in limited areas. But, he’s been in contact with the Garland County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas Game & Fish, whose officers patrol the lakes. He said the departments have agreed to work together, and vowed to counsel boaters who fail to social distance, and encourage them to abide by the recommendations.

• In light of budget cuts, the Governor was asked about raises or COL adjustments for state workers. He said there would be an announcement forthcoming, but he did not say when. The state budget was cut during the special session, and he said he does not expect another budget cut.

May 28, 2020

Biggest one day increase in community cases, concern about the Hispanic Community, and talk about liability protection for business. Here is the recap from the Thursday briefing on Covid-19.
• 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.

May 27, 2020
Positives dip under double digits, no ties to re-openings and an August timeline for election decisions. Here is a recap of the Covid-19 briefing for Wednesday, May 27.
• 97 new cases of Covid 19 in Arkansas, the first time in several days the positives were under 100. That takes to 6,277 the cumulative cases. Of those, there are 1,733 active cases. There was one additional death, taking the death toll to 120.
• There was one additional hospitalization, taking that total to 108, near the state record of 109.
• There were 4,033 test results in the past 24 hours with a positive rate of 1.9%.
• The Garland County numbers are not yet updated.
• The Governor pointed out that for the one week period ending May 23, the biggest percentage increase was in age group 0-17, up 46%. (190-278). He said young people need to be reminded they are not immune from the virus.
• Dr. Smith says while they track the increases, he does not see a correlation between the increases and the re-opening of businesses. Less than 1% were from people who reported being in restaurants, hair salons or churches to name a few.
• There have been several clusters in workers in the poultry industry. 220 of the active cases are from that industry. In addition, there has been an uptick in the Hispanic community.
• When asked about the November election, the Governor said he wants to assure voters and election workers will be safe. He said he has until August before a decision will have to be made if there are to be changes, noting that is when County election officials have to print ballots.

• 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.

May 26, 2020
Deaths, hospitalizations and cases all up, comments about Lake Hamilton behaviors and Dr. Nate Smith leaving Arkansas. Here is the Tuesday recap of the Covid-19 briefing:
• 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

154 new cases, 3 more deaths, but the positive rate remains under 5%; here is a recap from today’s Covid-19 briefing:
• There are 154 new corona virus cases since yesterday, taking the cumulative total to 5,612.
• There were three additional deaths, taking that total to 113.
• There were 2,909 test results, with a positive rate of 4.4% statewide.
• The number of hospital cases went down by five to 81.
• Updated numbers for Garland County are not yet posted. Dr. Smith did name a number of counties with multiple new cases, and Garland County was not in that list.
• Dr. Smith explained there were several “clusters” of cases. Contact tracing showed, for instance, in Paragould there were 8 cases on a single block; in Washington County, where there were 32 cases, over 1/3 traced back to only three households. He reminded Arkansans to remain careful over the holiday weekend, and the continued importance of social distancing, masks in groups and hand washing. He said individuals have to use behaviors to minimize risks, especially in family gatherings and neighborhood events.
• Regarding the Ready for Business Grants, the Governor said over 8,000 of those submissions have been approved and payments are being processed.
• Regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance site, over 7,000 claims have been paid, and he expects another 3,000+ payments to be made tonight. He reminded claimants of the need to refile on the site each week to keep their claims active.

• The Governor said the unemployment rate in Arkansas is at 10.2%, under the national average reported this morning at 14.7%.

May 21, 2020
Biggest increase in positive cases to date, no intention to retreat on openings and guidance on sports and summer camps. Here is a recap from today’s briefing:
• 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.

May 20, 2020
Five additional deaths, Arkansas crosses the 5,000 mark, and a delay on sports/camp announcements – here are the headlines from today’s Covid-19 briefing.
• 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.

May 19, 2020
An uptick in numbers, total nursing home testing planned, and payouts to nursing home workers. Here are highlights of the Governor’s Tuesday briefing:
Two deaths since yesterday, taking the total statewide death toll to 102.
110 new cases of Covid 19, taking the cumulative total to 4,923 since the start of the pandemic. Dr. Nate Smith says the current active cases are 1,082, a slight increase from yesterday.
3,014 test results have been returned in the past day. The positive rate was 1.5%. Dr. Nate Smith has explained in the past the total test results and positive rates are not from the same dates, which is why that won’t calculate if you try.
The Garland County numbers have not been updated since yesterday.
Dr. Smith said testing was completed Saturday at the FCI in Forrest City, with 585 positive cases. He said many of those numbers are not yet in the state system. Those tests are done by the CDC.
The Governor announced a plan to test all nursing home residents and staff members in the state starting June 1. That will be over 40,000 tests on top of the general community test goals.
The Governor also displayed a graphic showing the money paid to “direct care” staff at nursing homes. By the end of May, those payments will total over $21.8 million dollars to about 8,000 workers. Those are for long term care workers in facilities with Covid-19 positive patients.
The Governor will be at the White House tomorrow for a meeting with President Trump. When asked, he said he would wear a mask. He added that he will be given a Covid-19 test prior to entering the West Wing, as has been practice since members of the White House staff have tested positive for the virus.
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.

May 18, 2020
Arkansas death toll hits 100, number of cases still up, bars to open, and the FBI enters the investigation into the PUA website. Here is the information from the Governor’s Monday briefing:
Two additional deaths, taking the total deaths to 100 in Arkansas.
There are 12 additional people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Arkansas since Saturday.
The total cases went up by 235 since Saturday; 181 by Sunday, and an additional 54 since yesterday. That’s a cumulative total of 4,813 cases since the start. There are 1,068 active cases statewide. Regarding active cases, Dr. Smith said there are 591 in communities, 378 in penal facilities and 99 in nursing homes.
The Garland County numbers have not been updated since yesterday.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website remains shut down following the breach discovered Friday. The Governor says the FBI has entered the investigation. In the meantime, he says another vendor has been brought in to help secure the site, and he did not have an estimate of when it would re-open. The Arkansas Times first reported on the breach, saying it was contacted by the computer programmer who discovered the problem as he was trying to file for assistance. The Times reports that person called the publication after first attempting to report it to the Commerce Department and the Arkansas State Police, but did not receive a call back. When asked about that, the Governor said the individual seemed to have “exploited” the data, meaning he viewed it. There is no knowledge of whether the person did anything else, hence the law enforcement investigation.
Bars in Arkansas are being divided into two groups regarding re-opening. Bars that are inside of restaurants will be permitted to open tomorrow. Free standing bars will be permitted to open on May 26th. There will be regulations regarding the opening from the Health Department.
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.

May 15, 2020
97 new cases, no new deaths, and the three things the Governor is watching; here are the highlights from the Governor’s briefing on Friday, May 15.
There are 97 new cases since this time yesterday. 79 are from the community; 18 from correctional facilities. There are no new deaths to report, and a reduction by four in the number of people in hospitals. That brings to 4,463 cumulative cases, 3,390 recoveries, and 975 active cases.
There are now 127 cumulative cases in Garland County, up seven since this same time yesterday. That means there are now 10 active cases in the county.
The Governor and Dr. Nate Smith explained there will be testing at State Health units at over 70 county units starting Monday. (We will have someone from ADH on “AM Hot Springs” Monday morning at 8:35 to explain how that will work and who can take advantage of that service. Patients will be “self-administering” some of those tests.)
29,389 tests have been administered so far, with the goal of doing 60,00 by month end. The positive rate has been under 5%, under the 10% level set by the World Health Organization.
The Governor said that while Arkansas is not ready to move to Phase II, he does not see the state retreating back to prior Phase I condition. The three things the Governor and the Health Department is watching: positive rates in testing, the ability to continue testing, and tracing and hospital rates.
Dr. Smith talked about the use of the Abbott Lab “ID Now” test machines. The CDC has reported a problem with the number of false negatives. This is the machine that gives a result in 15 minutes. Dr. Smith says the best use of those is at “point of use” facilities where the swab can be immediately placed in the testing machine as opposed to being placed in transport liquid.

The Governor concluded by saying that unless something unexpected happens, he does not plan to do a briefing over the weekend.

May 14, 2020
An increase in positives, but a low positive percentage; no prediction possible about Phase II, and the Ft. Smith concert chooses to change dates. Here are the highlights from the Governor’s briefing on Thursday, May 14.
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.

May 13, 2020
Consequences for a concert promoter, Dr. Smith impressed with the Oaklawn plan, and 72 new cases. Here are the main points from the Governor’s Press Briefing for Wed, May 13.
The Governor started by wishing a Happy Birthday to 103 year old Herman Higgs. Higgs is a Arkansas native, a Veteran, who was a POW after the Battle of the Bulge. Upon returning to Arkansas, he enjoyed a career in law enforcement, but as a police officer and a US Marshall. He now lives at the Veterans home in North Little Rock.
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.
There are no new cases in Garland County; we remain at five active cases.
Governor Hutchinson continued to talk about testing rates, saying there were 2,278 yesterday and only 2.2% positive. The goal of getting to 60,000 tests this month is with an eye toward maintaining the testing infrastructure in case it’s needed later this year. The Governor said he wants the state to be prepared, saying we have to live and work through the pandemic until a vaccine is available.
Dr. Nate Smith says there are now over 200 people working at the Health Department as contact tracers. He said Arkansas may need 350 or more going forward.
When asked about the opening of Oaklawn and other casinos this Monday, Dr. Smith said he was “very impressed” with the draft plan submitted by Oaklawn, saying they submitted very detailed measures. He said has not yet signed off on the final draft of that plan.
The Governor was asked about the Temple Live music concert planned for Friday in Ft. Smith. The Health Department issued a cease and desist order. A reporter said they had heard the promoter plans to defy that order. Governor Hutchinson cautioned against that, saying he hoped the venue would comply, and warned of “consequences” if it did not. He also said he hoped fans, knowing the event was not permitted, would stay away.
With regard to high education in the Fall, the Governor said they are working with campus leaders for rapid testing where needed this fall.

May 12, 2020
*An uptick in positive cases, especially around the Federal Prison in Forrest City; Arkansas gets 50 doses of Remdisivir; YES, you need to wear a mask at a restaurant and a court order headed to the concert promoter in Ft. Smith.
Here are the highlights from today’s briefing with the Governor.*
There are 121 new cases of coronavirus in Arkansas. That brings the cumulative total to 4,164, with 3,149 recovered. 21 of the new cases are corrections facilities, and 100 in the “general community.” Of those 100, 27 are in St. Francis County. The Governor theorizes those are from prison employees who are out in the community. He noted there will be strong contact tracing efforts there. He also noted that problem would not have been as serious if the CDC had tested prison employees at the time of the outbreak the way the state suggested. The next biggest number of positives came from Pulaski County at 12.
There was one additional death, taking the fatality total to 95 since the outbreak began.
There are no new cases reported in Garland County.
The Governor said as restrictions are lifted, some “spikes” won’t be a surprise. He said the goal will be to keep those from becoming “outbreaks.” Hutchinson said contact tracing will be key in preventing “outbreaks.”
When asked for a definition of a spike vs an outbreak, Dr. Smith said it has to be judged in a geographic context. He noted that 50 positives in a smaller county would be more troubling that a dozen positives in a county with a bigger population.
The State is receiving 50 doses of the drug Remdisiver for the treatment of Covid-19. There will be clinical decisions on who is treated with those doses. Dr. Smith pointed out the use of the drug is contra-indicated for some patients with certain underlying conditions.
There has been national attention given to the publicity surrounding a concert promoted for this Friday in Ft. Smith. The Governor said that promoter will be getting a cease and desist order from the Health Department.
Hutchinson was asked again about customers using masks at restaurant dining rooms. He repeated customers are expected to wear masks except while actually eating.

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.

May 11, 2020
There have been 59 new cases since the last briefing on Saturday, 28 on Sunday and 31 this morning. That brings to 4,043 cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic. Dr. Nate Smith puts the number of active cases as 803.
There were four deaths since Saturday, bringing the death toll to 94.
There are no new cases reported in Garland County.
Statewide, there are 61 people in the hospital with Covid-19, 11 of them on ventilators.
Commerce Secretary Mike Preston says there will be over 100,000 unemployment checks sent this week. He said the “pandemic relief” unemployment for contract workers, free lancers and 1099 employees is up and running. Over 23,000 people have completed claims on that website in the past week. He expects checks to be mailed in coming weeks.
The Governor said he did see some examples of people not social distancing over the weekend. When questioned, he said it did not give him cause for concern about the lifting of restrictions so far, but serves as a reminder of the importance of people following those guidelines. The Governor, without mentioning names, said he occasionally calls the owners or managers of businesses about which he’s had complaints and talks about those complaints with them.
When asked about a concert planned in Western Arkansas for Sunday, the Governor said it is in violation of the state regulations. He said the concert promoter filed a plan with the health department which had several inefficiencies and that plan was not approved.

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.

May 8, 2020
The Legislative Council today approved additional funding for the Ready for Business grants, approving up to $147.7 million dollars This is money for small business owners to help with direct Covid-19 expenses at start up or re-start regarding health/distancing recommendations.
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.

May 7, 2020
There were 3 deaths since yesterday, including one here in Garland County. That brings to 88 the total fatalities since the start of the pandemic. We do not have information on the person who died in Hot Springs.
There was an uptick in positive cases since yesterday, but over 2,100 people were tested. There were 97 new cases, 30 of them in correctional centers. That brings to 3,665 the total number of people who have tested positive since the beginning. There have been 2,867 recoveries. That means there are 710 active cases statewide. There were no new cases reported in Garland County.
The Governor said he expects to see some increases as more businesses open, and as Arkansas does more testing. He said the key will be “contact tracing to stop spikes before it becomes a trend.”
The Governor said the three Casinos in Arkansas (Hot Springs, West Memphis, Pine Bluff) will be allowed to open on May 18 with limited operations. The Health Department will publish specific rules by tomorrow; but Casino operations will have to be at 1/3 of capacity and include a plan for social distancing and masks.
As suggested earlier this week by KZNG, the Health Department did produce a graph showing active cases by date. That, along with another chart, would indicate Arkansas peaked on April 25th. The Governor again pointed out the importance of continued vigilance and social distancing.
Dr. Smith said he had a conversation with the head of the Centers for Disease Control last night. Smith reported Robert Redfield of CDC commended Arkansas, saying he had been watching the state situation and was pleased. He said Arkansas had done a good job of keeping numbers low and is headed in the right direction.
Smith also said some people think there is a choice between mending the economy and keeping people healthy. He called that a “false choice,” and noted Arkansas has acted carefully to mind both health and the economy.

May 6, 2020
There were 72 new positive cases reported since this time yesterday; 20 of those were from the Federal Correction’s Institute in Forrest City, meaning 52 from the community.
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 started by announcing he signed the proclamation today extending the Emergency Powers for dealing with the pandemic for an additional 45 days. The original proclamation was scheduled to expire on May 11th.
• The Governor also announced lifting the prohibition of out of state leisure travel to Arkansas, with the exception of visitors from so-called “hot spots” like NYC, New Orleans, and others. This does not mean the opening of the Buffalo River National Recreation area, but he said they will be discussing that in the near future.
• There are 38 new positive cases since this time a day ago, bringing to 3,496 the total positive cases since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 1,364 are considered active. There were two additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 83.
• The number of cases in Garland County is unchanged; 117 total, and 106 considered “recovered”.
• The Governor reported April revenue figures, saying that while they revenue was down, it was not down as much as had been projected for the budget adjustment at the start of the pandemic. He said the economy, by comparison, has “not had the same nose dive as we’ve seen in other states.”
• The Health Department is working on procedures for recreational swimming facilities. They have adjusted the directive for gyms, allowing for the opening of lap lane pools.
• While not yet included in the count, there were 92 new cases at the Federal Correctional Facility in Forrest City. When asked why that is happening now, the Governor remarked the CDC and the Federal Government is finally testing the way they should have been doing it earlier. Those positive results will reflect in Arkansas numbers in the coming days..
• Dr. Nate Smith says his department has provided guidance to the Arkansas Corrections Department upon news that some guards/staff who have tested positive have returned to work. He said it’s because of a critical staff shortage, and it has also happened in some nursing homes. In those circumstances, workers who have tested positive are restricted and should not be working with inmates or patients who have tested negative.

• 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.

May 4, 2020
• The Governor said today the Emergency Declarations for Covid 19 will go past the original May 11th timeline, but is not ready to say when he will end the order.
• 5 new deaths in Arkansas from Covid 19, bringing that total to 81. That includes the deaths of Cummins inmates.
• There were 27 new positive reports, one of the lowest number of new cases in several weeks. 14 of the 27 were from correctional facilities.
• The Governor says the numbers show Arkansas has reached the gating criteria for Phase 1. Arkansas could reach phase 2 if there is not an upward spike over the next 14 days.
• The Governor announced the opening of worship services with “guidance”, pointing out these are not “directives” because of the separation of church & state. The guidance includes: Online platforms are still encouraged; a 6-foot distance between worshipers, excluding family groups; a 12 foot distance between worship leaders and the congregation and face coverings for worship participants and the elimination of the use of items touched by multiple people, such as collection plates. A complete list will be posted on the ADH website.
• The opening of Large Outdoor venues does have directives which include: 12 foot distance between performers and the audience, 50 or fewer performers; 50 or fewer audience members, alternate rows should be occupied, and six foot distancing between individuals. Outdoor venues can be opened now.
• The opening of Indoor Venues have similar directives and can be opened on May 18. That does not yet include casinos. The Governor said they are working on directives for casinos, and hope to have those ready by May 18th.
• The “Ready for Business Grant” program will re-open tomorrow for two days, from 8am-6pm. The dollars allocated for this program total $55 million. Those who successfully applied last week do not have to reapply.

• 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.

May 1, 2020
• There are 66 new positive test results since yesterday at this time, bringing to 3,321 the total number of cases. There were three additional deaths, bringing the fatality level to 64. There were no additional hospitalizations. That number remains at 95. Arkansas is reporting 1,973 recoveries.
• The seven day rolling average for new cases continues to show a declining trajectory. Gov. Hutchinson says based on the lower positive rates with increased testing, he believes Arkansas is meeting the “gating” criteria outlined by the White House for reaching phase 1. Dr. Smith agreed.
• On Wednesday, there were 2,520 COVID-19 tests performed in Arkansas, with a 1.5% positivity rate. This is the highest number of tests run in one day in the state since March 11. ( 47,937 total tests have been performed, with 44,656 negative test results)
• The Governor announced the Phase 1 opening, with restrictions, for barber shops, hair salons, med-spa services, tattoo facilities and massage. There are several restrictions, which include:
  *ten or fewer people in a smaller facility.
  *in larger facilities, no more than 30% of stations in operation.
  *By appointment only, no walk ins.
  *Time between appointments for cleaning.
  *Client names and contact information collected in the event clients need to be contacted.
  *Vulnerable populations should stay home.
• Regarding the “Ready for Business Grant” program, the Governor said the CARES Act Steering Committee suggested adding $85 million dollars to the programs original $15 million dollars. That is still subject to legislative approval.

• 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

• 63 new cases statewide, taking the total number statewide to 3,255. There were 2 additional deaths, bringing to 61 the total number of fatalities.
• With 1,305 recoveries, there are now 1,888 active cases in Arkansas.
• There is one additional case in Garland County, taking the county total to 116.
• The Governor announced the opening of Gyms and Fitness Centers with restrictions starting May 4th. Those restrictions include no visitors from certain states; no entry for those with symptoms or people in recent contact with Covid-19 patients or anyone with compromised immune systems. In addition, staff will be checked for fever and will wear face coverings. There will be no use of pools, spas, showers or saunas. A complete list of restrictions is on the Health Department website.
• The Governor said the website for the “Ready for Business” Grant program which was announced yesterday went live last night. The Governor called that “premature, due to a failure of clear communications, which I take responsibility for.” Within a short period of time, there were $36 million dollars in requests for a grant program announced at $15 million dollars. The website was taken down and will re-launch next week. The Governor said yesterday it still needed the approval of the Legislative Council, which has not yet been granted. He also indicated there may be some changes in the grant application or requirements when program re-launches next week. The program, as announced, had a cap of $1,000 per employee, and a limit of $100,000. The Governor said he was “delighted” that 92% of the applications were from business owners who had 50 or fewer employees.

(Commerce Secretary Mike Preston with be on KZNG tomorrow morning (05/01/20) at 8:05 to discuss this further)

April 29, 2020
Seven additional deaths since this time yesterday, bringing the total fatalities to 59 in Arkansas.
• 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 pr
evious 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)

April 28, 2020
• There are 3,111 positive cases, up by 94 from this time yesterday. 1,913 are considered “active” cases.
• 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.

April 27, 2020
• There are now 3,017 people who have tested positive for the virus, up 16 from the report last night. There are 109 patients in the hospital, with 25 on ventilators.
• 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.

April 24, 2020
• Today marks the third consecutive day of increasing new Covid-19 cases in Arkansas. The positives were 276 from yesterday. 78 of those were from the community, 198 from Cummins. The total number statewide is now 2,741.
• 932 people are now categorized as “recovered”.
• Yesterday was also the largest number of test results received. There were 2,808 results reported, and Dr. Smith noted the positive rate was 4.1%, including Cummins. That is lower than the overall positives of 7.9% since testing started. 
• There are 104 patients who are in the hospital, 25 of them on ventilators.
• The Governor and Dr. Smith took several questions about how the three day uptick impacts the May 4th target date of having a 14 day downward trajectory to enter the Phase 1 of re-opening. In short, the answers centered on the number of new cases on day 14 when compared to day 1. And the Governor said again the state is looking for an “overall decrease” in new cases along with a variety of other indicators. Dr. Smith indicated if the uptrend continues, they may have to re-evaluate the openings planned for May 4th.
• Dr. Smith said they have set May 18th as a target date for allowing some dental procedures. The Health Department will be drafting specific outlines for the types of dental procedures permitted. He added there is concern about procedures that require aerosols
• The Governor reminded people we are in day one of a two day surge, where people are urged to get a Covid-19 test if they have symptoms.

• 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 23, 2020
• Gov. Hutchinson says he’d like to see a two-day “surge” of testing, tomorrow and Saturday, for anyone who has symptoms and wants to be tested for Covid-19. The Governor pointed out there has been a decline in testing, and the state has capacity to increase that. The message, in short, is “if you have symptoms, don’t wait, get tested.”
• There were 189 new cases of Covid 19 since yesterday, 122 of which were from Cummins. 902 people have now recovered. The total is now 2,465.
• There are also a total of 34 Cummins staff members who have tested positive. Those people are being counted as a part of the “community” tests.
• The death toll now stands at 45
• The task force on testing has four recommendations which the Governor has accepted:
1 – Expand the PCR testing to find people who are positive.
2 – Expand PCR testing for contact investigation purposes.
3 – Increase screening for people in high risk settings.
4 – Develop a strategy for statewide serosurveillance, better known as anti-body testing.
• Dr. Nate Smith said with regarding to antibody testing, “It’s not ready for prime time yet,” noting only two of the tests have received FDA approval.
• With regard to the May 4th target date, and how the White House recommendations impact that date; the WH guidance is for a 14 day downward trajectory of documented cases. Arkansas has had two days of increased positives impacting the downward trajectory. Gov Hutchinson, when asked about that by KZNG, said the guidance is just one of the factors; and that it is not a “be all, end all” determination. He added he’ll continue to look for guidance from health care professionals in Arkansas as he makes those announcements next week.

April 22, 2020

There are 49 new Covid-19 cases since yesterday, 13 of which are from Cummins. The positive test results at Cummins now total 681 inmates and 14 staff, and additional testing is still being done there.
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.
Governor Hutchinson announced he believes Arkansas is on track to meet the May 4 target for Phase 1 re-opening of some business entities.
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.
It should be noted that on the above dates, the Governor plans to provide information on whether they can open on 5/4, and under what conditions.
There is no target date announcement yet for casinos or lodging for recreational purposes.

April 21, 2020
• 304 additional people tested positive for Covid-19 since this time yesterday: 262 of them from the Cummins Prison, the remaining 42 from the population at large. That takes the total number of cases statewide to 2,227. There are 1,375 “active” Covid-19 cases in Arkansas.
• There was one additional death, so the new total is 42.
• 810 patients have recovered. 
• Five additional health care workers are now positive. That total number is 249.
• There are now 109 cases in Garland County, still no deaths. 
• Not all of the Cummins positives have been reported yet. Dr. Nate Smith said it appears the total at Cummins will be 670 inmates. 10 staff have tested positive in addition, and additional staff are still being tested. Dr. Smith used the word “alarming” to describe the situation at Cummins Prison.
• The Governor showed a chart demonstrating that the new cases in Arkansas, not counting the Cummins cases, are on a downward trend.
• The task force on “Post Peak” actions has had it’s first meeting, and plans to provide an interim report at the end of May, and final report at the end of June. Those reports will have recommendations for best practices for different segments of the business community.
• 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.”

April 20, 2020
There has been a significant increase in the reports of child abuse and neglect, and a big increase in the number of inmates testing positive at the Cummins Prison Unit.
• April is Child Abuse and Neglect Month, and First Lady Susan Hutchinson talked about that, followed by a representative of the Department of Child and Family Services. She reported since the start of Covid-19, there have been 3,148 calls to the free Abuse & Neglect Hotline, noting that is approx. a 50% increase from this time a year ago. This is believed to be because of high tensions as people are staying home. The toll free number to report abuse or neglect of children is 844-SAVE-A-CHILD.
• The total number of Covid-19 positives reported since yesterday is 142, taking the state total to 1,923. Of that 142, 117 came from Cummins. Because of the time required for the manual input of the Cummins numbers, the 117 is well below the actual number. Dr. Smith said he believes there are about 600 total positives at the Cummins unit.
• There were two additional deaths reported, taking to 42 the total number of people who have died in Arkansas. He said a majority of those were on a ventilator at some time.
• The Governor showed a national chart regarding testing; that color coded map shows Arkansas is testing between 90 and 100 people per 1,000 population, among the top in the country. Dr. Nate Smith says Arkansas is testing about 1,000 people per day, and he is encouraging more testing as resources are becoming more available.
• With regards to visit with grandchildren, The Governor suggested that based on the national guidelines, that will be in “Phase 3”, noting that children can spread the disease easily for a variety of reasons; and that will be one of the later restrictions lasted.
• Other free numbers for help discussed:
For help with mental health or addiction: 844-763-0198.

For help if feeling suicidal: 800-273-8255.

April 19, 2020

• Arkansas has lost its first Health Care worker to Coronavirus. The death was one of two people who died since yesterday, bringing to 40 the number of fatalities. Dr. Nate Smith did not identify the HC worker out of respect to the family. He did note the person was under 65 years of age, and worked in Jefferson County.
• 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.
• At Cummins, there are now 348 people who have tested positive, and that includes 6 staff members. Dr. Smith says they have now tested almost 1,400 people at Cummins, 974 of them in the past two days. Of the 974, they have results for 634 so far. Inmates who test positive are being housed in different barracks than those who test negative.
• 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.

April 18, 2020
• 44 additional people have tested positive for the virus since yesterday, NOT counting additional positive results at the Cummins Prison, which we will cover below. The 44 additional positives takes Arkansas to a total of 1,739 cases, 998 of which are active.
• 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

• There were 75 new positive cases reported since yesterday, bringing to 1,695 as the total positives. There were no new deaths. When you subtract the recovered patients, there are now 1,065 active cases.
• There were two additional cases in Garland County reported, bring the county total to 107, with no deaths in Garland County. 
• Dr. Nate Smith reported there are 83 new positives at the Cummins Prison unit NOT REPORTED in the numbers above. Smith explained the VA lab has been helping with testing at the prison, but those results are not electronically transmitted. They will be included in tomorrow’s numbers. Smith said the spread occurred because some inmates had been transferred from the infected barracks before inmates showed symptoms or were tested. More testing is occurring at the prison.
• Dr. Smith reported there were two nursing home cases with false positives, and those the patients in those cases were re-tested.
• Governor Hutchinson has set May 4th as a target date to begin lifting some of the targeted restrictions due to Covid19 in Arkansas. He said that will be based on sound public health reasons, and suggested allowing some elective medical procedures based on clinical decisions would be among the first restrictions lifted.
• The May 4th date would be in keeping with the suggested White House guidelines to the states, the Governor pointed out that one of the major criteria for Phase 1 is 14 days of downward trend in new cases. He said it will take continued vigilance in Social Distancing and targeted closings to make the occur. Arkansas has not yet met the Phase 1 criteria outlined by the White House. (Arkansas would have to start a downward trend no later than Monday, April 20 to achieve 14 days of downward trend by May 4)
• With regard to the White House guidelines, Hutchinson said he appreciated the criteria from the President. He said it gives each state a way to evaluate its readiness to reopen based on common guidance. He called it a “good model” for states to use.
• The Governor was asked about dates to re-open casinos in Arkansas. He said there is no target date for that at this point, and recognized the significant loss in tax revenue as a result.
• The Governor opened the briefing by paying tribute to Fort Smith, AR native Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker Jr. Thacker died of Covid 19; he was stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thacker was 41 years old and was reported to be in good health prior to contracting the virus. The Roosevelt is the ship on which the Captain was discharged for going outside his chain of command in seeking help for his crew when the virus was discovered to be both present and growing onboard.

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.

April 15, 2020
• Arkansas has crossed over 1,500 positive cases. 71 new cases since yesterday at this time takes the total to 1,569; including 1047 active cases, and 489 recoveries. 
• There was one additional death, taking that total to 33.
• The total in Garland County is now 103 people who have tested positive.
• The U of W Covid-19 modeling now has May 2 as Arkansas’ “peak” date. The Governor says that demonstrates Arkansas is flattening the curve. The later date indicates the total number of cases in Arkansas will not be as high as had been originally projected. Gov Hutchinson said the May 2 date may change, and becomes a date for better decision making about an easing of restrictions.
• The long sought Medicaid waiver has been approved in part. That will allow for direct bonus payments for health care workers in long term care facilities. It will break into two categories; those who care for at risk patients at long term facilities, and additional money for direct care providers. The exact amount depends on the number of hours worked, but can be as high as $250 per week. The long term facilities must apply for the money, and it must be paid directly to the workers, minus only regular withholding taxes.
• The waiver was not approved for hospitals, but Governor Hutchinson said a committee working with the CARE funds sent to the state will evaluate requests from hospital for bonus payments to their employees.
• As of now, the payments are for RN’s, LPN’s, CNA’s, PCA’s and other providers with certifications. A total of 215 Health Care workers have tested positive for Covid-19 so far.
• The Governor said he will be part of another conference call with President Trump tomorrow to discuss opening the economy.
• The number of hospital beds in Arkansas is sufficient to care for all projected cases, so as of today, the Governor is cancelling the “surge” efforts, which would have added capacity at places like War Memorial Stadium.

April 14, 2020
• An additional 88 people have tested positive since this time yesterday, bringing the total to 1,498 positives in Arkansas.
• Of the total positives, 1,024 are still “active”
• 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.

April 13, 2020
• The past 24 hours saw the biggest one day increase in positive test results since the virus was first detected; plus 130 cases since yesterday, bringing to 1,410 the total number of positive tests in Arkansas.
• 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.

April 10, 2020
• There are now 1,171 people who have tested positive for the virus in Arkansas, up 77 since this time yesterday. Subtracting the people who have recovered or died, there are 836 active cases; 33 people are on ventilators.
• 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.

April 9, 2020
• The Arkansas Department of Health reports three new deaths in Arkansas, bringing to 21 the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Arkansas.
• 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

• Today marks four weeks since the first positive case reported in Arkansas.
• 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. 

On other items:
• 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

•  There are now 704 people in Arkansas who have tested positive, up 61 from yesterday’s briefing.
•  There are now 71 people hospitalized, 26 of whom are on ventilators.
•  The number of positive cases here in Garland County is now 37.
•  The Governor says almost 10,000 Arkansans’ have been tested with a 7.3% positive rate.
•  The procurement department at UAMS has made a purchase of 30 days of PPE equipment which will arrive later this month. Dr. Cam Patterson from UAMS says one of the biggest hold-ups on some purchases, is arranging shipment and clearing foreign customs.
•  While there are ventilators in the purchase pipeline, Governor Hutchinson says he doesn’t want to be overly optimistic, citing concerns that Arkansas could be outbid at the last minute.
•  The Governor took a question about whether a City/County had the power to order that Juveniles stay home during certain hours. The Governor indicated that as long as the order did not interfere with commerce, he believed a city could do that. He added he’d be meeting with cities and counties on Monday to talk about coordination of such orders.
•  The Governor commended L’Oréal for agreeing to produce 550 gallons a week of hand sanitizer for use by hospitals. He pointed out the company has never produced that product, but agreed to do it, and is not charging the state.

•  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

•  There are now 643 cases of Covid-19 in Arkansas (up 59 from yesterday), and 2 more people have died, taking the death toll to 12.
• Of the 643 cases, 91 are health care workers, and 51 are nursing home residents.

• Governor Asa Hutchinson says he is NOT prepared to issue a stay at home order for Arkansas at this time. In his daily briefing, the Governor showed the list of targeted actions he’s taken so far. He and public health officials believe those have been effective so far.
   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

As of today, Arkansas has had a total of 523 positive test results.
· 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.

March 30, 2020  
As of today, Arkansas has had a total of 473 positive test results.
Age Breakdown:
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.
• The order closing casinos was to expire tomorrow; the Governor has stated “that will be extended.” He did not say for what period of time.
• 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.”

March 23,2020

• 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.

March 22, 2020
• Arkansas Health Dept reports 165 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Arkansas.
• In Garland County, the number of positive cases has gone up from 6 to 9.

March 21, 2020 
Update: We now have 118 positive cases in Arkansas (up 22 from yesterday)
⋅ 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.