Coronavirus in Ark.: Gov. Hutchinson, state officials discuss update on cases, job creation


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson, Interim Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero, Washington Regional President and CEO Larry Shackelford, President of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas Eric Pianalto and Commerce Secretary Mike Preston discussed an update on coronavirus cases, the state’s response and job creation in Fayetteville on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 35,246 total COVID-19 cases and 380 deaths, according to state officials. That is an increase of 591 new cases and six deaths from Tuesday.

Dr. Romero said seven of the new cases are in correctional facilities and 584 were in communities.

The counties with the most new cases are Pulaski County (80), Benton County (46), Washington County (38), Craighead County (33), Faulkner County (30), Garland County (30), Pope County (24) and Crittenden County (22), according to Governor Hutchinson.

The governor noted Wednesday testing was down and to not get too excited about the decrease in new cases.

Hutchinson said there were 3,933 tests done on Tuesday.

The governor said there was a decrease in the number of hospitalizations due to the virus in the state. As of Wednesday, there are 474 hospitalizations, which is a decrease of 14 from Tuesday.

Dr. Romero said there are 107 people on a ventilator in Arkansas due to the virus, which is a decrease of three from Tuesday.

According to Dr. Romero, there are 6,876 active cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas. Of the total number of active cases, 140 are in nursing homes, 916 are in correctional facilities and 5,820 are in communities.

Hutchinson said during his visit to Northwest Arkansas, he met with medical providers, nurses and doctors at Washington Regional. The governor said he saw the exhaustion and stress on their faces. He thanked them for what they were doing.

According to Shackelford, there were 40 COVID-positive patients at Washington Regional, with 16 of those on a ventilator. Shackelford said the hospital’s trends are going down.

Shackelford said he is thankful for the National Guard soldiers who are on-site at the call center. According to Shackelford, the call center managed 15,825 calls in the first 15 days of July.

Pianalto encouraged Arkansans to seek care if they’re sick, saying it’s easier to take care of people in a non-emergent case than in an emergency. Pianalto said Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas saw an increase from May until two weeks ago. According to Pianalto said the hospital had a peak of 45 COVID patients, but is now in the mid-20s.

Pianalto said Northwest Arkansas hospitals saw a peak of 120 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus.

Governor Hutchinson said he and Preston toured the La-Z-Boy facility in Siloam Springs where there will be 120 new jobs added. Hutchinson also noted all workers in a factory setting were wearing masks as part of company policy.

Preston said in the last week, the state has made six announcements that involved 1,400 jobs in Arkansas.

Those include Amazon at the Little Rock Port with the creation of 1,000 jobs, an expansion at Signode with 31 new jobs, Gerber at Fort Smith with 50 new jobs and a $30 million investment, SCA Pharma in Little Rock with 180 new jobs and a $10 million investment, La-Z-Boy in Siloam Springs and Synergy Cargo in Crossett.

Preston also said as of Wednesday the pandemic compensation of an extra $600 will end July 25.

Preston also said fraud continues to be an issue. According to the Commerce Secretary, more people have been hired to review possible fraud. About 20,000 claims are under review, according to Preston. The Commerce Secretary advised if a person receives a notification to follow directions.


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