Arkansas announces first presumed case of coronavirus

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed the state's first presumed case of the coronavirus.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson said the agency tested a Pine Bluff man for the coronavirus. That test was sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

The patient has a history of traveling out of state and has been in isolation at an Arkansas hospital.

In response to the case, Hutchison announced he will be signing an executive order declaring a public health emergency in the state.

The order will give "managers, our responders the authority they need, as well as the extra resources they might need, and to cut through red tape, that will allow them to address the current circumstances."

Hutchinson also encouraged Arkansans to reevaluate their upcoming travel plans.

"Is it to a state or area with confirmed cases? Does the trip include large gatherings with other people from multiple unknown locations? When you return will you have contact with the elderly or with other large groups? Are you driving or going by mass transportation? Are there safer options for the vacation? These are reasonable questions that Arkansans should ask themselves as they look at their travel plans."

He urged those who feel sick to stay at home.

Some Arkansas residents WREG spoke with were alarmed the virus made it into their state, but they're staying ready.

"I’ve been washing my hands more and stuff like that," Glenn Brown said. "Just trying to take care of myself."

"It can float this way real soon," Levi Williams said. "Two hours away, it can come knock on somebody’s door, or you can catch it at the store. It’s very scary."

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