Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor Hutchinson, other leaders give update on COVID-19 cases, testing and issues

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CONWAY, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson, Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith, Dr. Jose Romero, chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health and Congressman French Hill (R-Arkansas) visited Conway Wednesday afternoon and discussed an update on cases, testing and issues.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 30,297 total COVID-19 cases and 335 deaths in the state, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson. That is an increase of 564 cases and four deaths from Tuesday.

According to Dr. Nate Smith, 78 of the new cases are in correctional facilities and 486 are in communities.

Dr. Smith said the counties with the largest number of new cases are Pulaski County (78), Sebastian County (52), Washington County (46) and Benton County (48). All other counties had fewer than 20 new cases, according to Smith.

There are currently 458 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus in Arkansas, which is a net increase of 13, according to Dr. Smith.

According to Smith, there are 94 people on a ventilator in Arkansas due to the virus, an increase of three from Tuesday.

Dr. Smith said there are currently 6,439 active cases in the state.

Smith said the total number of cases is about one percent of the state population and the number of active cases is less than one percent, but the state still has work to do.

“If you came into your living room and the curtains were on fire, you wouldn’t say, ‘Well, it’s at one percent, I’m not going to worry about it now. Let’s wait until it’s at two or three percent,” Smith said. “No, you get after it. The fire is still burning here. We’re making some good progress here in Central Arkansas, but the fire is still burning, and we can’t let up until we put it out.”

According to Smith, there have been 830 coronavirus patients in Faulkner County. Of the total Faulkner County cases, 226 are active, according to Dr. Smith. The Secretary of Health noted 20% of the cases in Faulkner County were adults 18 to 14 years old, which is higher than the state’s 13 to 14%. There are currently 22 hospitalized in Faulkner County with seven currently on ventilators, according to Smith. Dr. Smith said four people have died in Faulkner County due to the virus. The Secretary of Health said the overall positivity rate in Faulkner County is 6.3%, which is lower than the state’s positivity rate of 7.6%. According to Dr. Smith, 604 people have recovered from the virus in Faulkner County. Smith noted the test rate in Faulkner County is 1,038 per 10,000 people, while the state’s rate is 1,326 per 10,000 people.

Dr. Jose Romero said the Conway Human Development Center has an outbreak. According to Dr. Romero, the Conway Human Development Center is the largest in the state, with 461 residents, 927 staff and 26 contractors. Romero said there are 87 residents with active cases and 18 staff with active cases. Visitations with clients are not currently allowed at the Human Development Center. The current plan is to allow visitation again by August 11, which is 28 days after the last positive case, according to state officials.

Dr. Smith said the Arkansas Department of Health received reports on 5,146 tests done in the last 24 hours.

According to Smith, 80,862 tests have been done so far in July.

The governor said there is a challenge with a backlog in the commercial labs and it doesn’t allow the state to get to this month’s goal.

Congressman French Hill also said there is an issue with the reagent supply for testing facilities.

Dr. Smith said the state has a lot of work to catch up when it comes to the testing goal.

According to Smith, the ADH public health labs did 1,455 tests Tuesday and UAMS did 656, which is a steady increase for them.

Arkansas’s federal congressional delegation sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking for greater national support for commercial labs.

Rep. Hill said he is committed to continue to press the vice president for answers.

Hill also said he proposed an amendment to the Defense Production Act called the Save Act. According to Hill, this would take medical supplies, pharmaceutical ingredients, compounds and all related medical devices and put under that strategy at President Donald Trump’s discretion.

Rep. Hill said the delegation is ready to partner with Governor Hutchinson in the next few weeks as Congress reassesses the gaps in the CARES Act. Hill said they want more flexibility in state and local funding, as well as financial support for broadband and schools.

Hill urged that masks are critical.

Governor Hutchinson also talked about Walmart and Sam’s Club requiring masks in their stores across the country. The governor said it’s another step in education.

The Arkansas Education Association did a survey over the weekend and 90% of respondents have concerns about going back to school. Governor Hutchinson said it’s a natural reaction for people to be concerned and asked them to closely follow the guidelines given by the schools.


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