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Public Affairs
Resources for Arkansas COVID-19

The latest Arkansas COVID-19 information and resources.

Daily COVID-19 Updates

12/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 2,282 confirmed cases since yesterday, a new record, for a total of 165,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 757 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 29,031 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The total of 3,039 new combined cases is a new record. There are 16,446 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 146,287 confirmed recoveries. There are 5,213 active probable cases, a new record, and there have been 23,458 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,755 confirmed and 357 probable. There are 1,084 hospitalized patients, with 188 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 14,056 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 202,725. Additionally, there were 3,275 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 44,492.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the state since March 1. The orange line is the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new confirmed cases reported each day. The green line shows the seven-day rolling average for new confirmed and probable cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

12/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,638 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 15, for a total of 163,230 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 668 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 28,274 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 15,862 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 144,621 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,912 probable active cases and there have been 23,010 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,725 confirmed and 349 probable, with the combined 58 deaths yesterday being a new record. There are 1,079 hospitalized patients with 184 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 8,885 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total PCR tests in December to 187,828. Additionally, there were 4,696 antigen tests performed yesterday, a new record, for a total of 41,217 tests this month.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the State. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line shows the seven-day rolling average for new confirmed and probable cases reported each day. The purple line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of PCR tests performed each day. The burgundy line is the seven-day rolling average of combined PCR and antigen tests performed each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

12/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,236 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 14, for a total of 161,592 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 905 probable cases since yesterday, a new record, for a total of 27,606 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 16,012 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 142,886 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,678 active probable cases and there have been 22,581 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,672 confirmed and 344 probable. There are 1,070 hospitalized patients with 190 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 8,297 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 177,862. Additionally, there were 3,872 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 36,460.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the state since March 1. The orange line is the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new confirmed cases reported each day. The green line shows the seven-day rolling average for new confirmed and probable cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • At 8:10 a.m. Monday, Arkansas received the first shipment of Pfizer vaccine. The first vaccination took place in the afternoon, when Sherian Kwanisai was vaccinated. The Governor said that they expected to receive notice on Friday as to when the next shipment of the Pfizer vaccine would arrive, including both the timeline and number of doses. This will be a recurring, weekly notification for the next week’s doses.
  • The goal is to vaccinate health care workers and caregivers at long-term facilities as soon as possible. Priorities for future distribution of vaccines among the public will be set when the number of doses is clear.
  • COVIDComm is now online, using the TraumaComm system. Patients who are positive are eligible to transfer to another hospital if the hospital they are at are unable to care for them. They will use a clinical tool to assess the patient and determine the appropriate facility for the patient to be sent. They will also facilitate the physician-to-physician hand off. Once the patient has a hospital that will accept them, the transferring hospital will arrange the appropriate transportation.
  • Asked about the proposed but not implemented lower limits on indoor events, Governor Hutchinson said they are doing a 10-day compliance blitz with the current rules and will revisit after that is over.
  • Asked about whether the legislature has set a time for meeting as a Committee of the Whole, as requested by the Governor, Governor Hutchinson said that depends on the General Assembly leadership setting a date, as it is not a special session that he can call.
  • Asked about a letter sent by legislators about the Governor’s emergency order extension, seeking to be involved in future decisions, Governor Hutchinson said that he has not received the letter, but that he has asked the legislature to meet to confirm the extension of the emergency order.
  • Asked about what would happen if the legislature denies the extension, Governor Hutchinson said that they haven’t yet met to deny the initial declaration in March, and that he wants them to meet to show that the state is working hard to help Arkansans. If the legislature denies the extension, the Governor will do everything within his power to help fight COVID, but that the legislature has been a good partner so far.
  • Asked about a timeline for the availability of vaccine to all those who want one, Governor Hutchinson said that it depends on both FDA approval of additional vaccines and production capacity of the approved vaccines. He said that he hopes that it could be widely available by late spring.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is in a similar class, and is expected to be approved so that Arkansas will receive doses next week. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for all patients 16 and over. The Moderna vaccine will be for 18 and over.
  • Safety has never been compromised for these vaccines. In all three phases of the vaccine development, safety has been paramount. There are at least four different ways to track safety post-approval, including the ability of the public to self-report any adverse effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS. The vaccines are reactogenic, meaning that they will cause some fever, soreness, and aches, but that doesn’t mean they are not safe.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments have been available for about a month and have been used by hospitals across the state. These have been proven to limit the effect of the disease on those who have already tested positive. It should be given early to patients who have tested positive if they have risk factors for more severe COVID. It should take the place of any previous unproven treatments.
  • This pandemic is not under control. Please reassess your holiday plans. The CDC has recommended no non-essential travel, even within the state. All indoor activities should require masks.
  • No patient is being discharged that should not be discharged. If they need to be admitted, they are, and are treated appropriately. There is capacity, although it is not even, and COVIDComm will allow the state to address that inequality in a much easier fashion.
  • Dr. Romero was asked about an outbreak at a restaurant in Little Rock where there were 10 cases in the kitchen and that hasn’t shown up in any of the state reports on case clusters and the parties involved haven’t been contacted by contact tracers. Dr. Romero said that the contact tracers have been overwhelmed and that they may not have been able to reach out as quickly as they would like. He said that he trusts the data enough to act on it. There is no information in the data to suggest there is a cluster.
  • Asked about who would be vaccinated after long-term care workers, Dr. Romero said that the ACIP is still deciding, but that teachers and other essential workers will be in that group. Individuals in correctional facilities are not in that group and will be vaccinated later. The vaccine distribution plans depend on the timeline and number of vaccines that the state receives. The CDC expects to provide recommendations on phase two within the next two weeks, at the latest. However, adjustments to the recommendations may be made if needed to reflect the needs of Arkansas.

Solomon Graves: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections

  • In October, the state authorized antigen testing in correctional facilities across the state. Over 44,000 tests have been administered to staff. Since then, 141 staff members have tested positive, which has allowed them to stay ahead of asymptomatic spread into the correctional facility population and flatten the number of cases.
  • Another 43,000 tests will be distributed next week, which will allow the testing to continue until late February or early March.
  • Vaccine distribution to the health care workers at the correctional facilities is expected to start soon, followed by their other staff, and then by March or April, they expect to be able to start vaccinating the correctional facility population.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Last week, 35 schools had to make an on-site modification. This week, 30 schools have had to make an on-site modification, although 25 are a result of weather in North Arkansas. In the two weeks following Thanksgiving, there have been fewer modifications than in the weeks following Halloween. Currently, 48 schools have some form of modifications, while 343 have had to make a modification so far this year.
  • Ft. Smith public schools launched their On Track Program to help students who are currently failing classes to prepare an academic improvement plan to help ensure they get back on track to either graduate or advance to the next school year. Other school districts across the state should start a program like this to help make sure students have the support they need.
  • Asked about whether the state is tracking failure rates and if they are planning on requiring an Engage Arkansas type program for all school districts as was done in the spring semester, Secretary Key said they are not tracking the failure rates at a statewide level, as that is done at the district level. He doesn’t envision needing another Engage Arkansas for this semester, and they are working to identify the 5,000 students across the state that are not engaging with online learning through other methods. There is no plan to go to pass/fail for this school year.

Dr. Jerrilyn Jones: Preparedness Medical Director, Arkansas Department of Health

  • COVIDComm required work to set up a diagnostic tool to assess the patients. A group of clinicians will help work with the hospitals to ensure that the patients are sent to a facility that can help. The primary care for the patients will be at the hospital where the patient is, but if they have run out of beds or ICU beds, this will allow them to use COVIDComm to help send the patient to a place where they can get the care they need.
  • COVIDComm will go live tomorrow morning.

Sam Lynd: CEO of NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital

  • Hospitals in Northeast Arkansas continue to be very busy with COVID patients. Around 25% of all patients are COVID positive. When an ICU bed becomes free, there is another patient ready to fill it. Trends in positive rates have increased since September: 10% in September, 14% in October, 18% in November, and over 20% in December. Some days have had positive rates in the mid-30s.
  • They received their first doses of the vaccine at 10am and had given their first dose at 2:30 p.m. to Dr. Steven Stroud, their infectious disease specialist. A total of ten workers were vaccinated yesterday, and they expect to do 80 today, and expect to be able to do over 100 per day moving forward.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments have been used for the last few weeks, where high-risk patients enter through a separate entrance, receive the treatment, and then leave again, so that they do not have any interactions with other patients. They have done 104 treatments so far and expect to be able to do 16 to 20 per day. None of these patients have been hospitalized.
  • Although they are excited about the vaccine and the antibody treatments, they want everyone to take this seriously as the holidays approach, and to follow the three W’s: wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it requires not having a spike like after Thanksgiving.
  • There are about 15 ICU beds available in Northeast Arkansas. As such, they are looking at patients who may not need hospital levels of care to ensure that they are able to handle the more serious cases.

 

 

12/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,233 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 13, for a total of 160,356 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 122 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 26,701 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 16,414 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 141,264 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,277 active probable cases and there have been 22,087 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,656 confirmed and 334 probable. There are 1,050 hospitalized patients, with 180 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 9,244 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 167,964. Additionally, there were 925 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 32,485.

 

Governor Hutchinson made this statement: “Today is a hopeful day. After months of work, a COVID-19 vaccine is in Arkansas, and the first vaccine was given to Sherian Kwanisai today. The FDA should approve additional vaccines soon, and we will be set to cover our long-term care facilities. Brighter days are ahead, but we must continue to follow public health guidelines. This virus continues to rapidly spread, and it’s up to each of us to do our part to slow the spread.”

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

12/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There were 1,938 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 10, for a total of 156,011 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 832 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 25,613 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 16,000 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas, a new record, and there have been 137,401 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,706 active probable cases and there have been 20,617 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,588 confirmed and 287 probable, for a new daily record of 55 combined and probable deaths. There are 1,059 hospitalized patients, with 185 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 15,516 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 130,960. Additionally, there were 3,537 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 27,370.

 

Governor Hutchinson has extended the state of emergency due to COVID until the end of December, and has called on the General Assembly to affirm the extension. Governor Hutchinson also said that roughly 40% of all Arkansans have been tested for COVID.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

12/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,704 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 9, for a total of 154,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 498 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 24,781 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 15,342 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas, a new record, and there have been 136,150 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,381 active probable cases and there have been 20,136 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,559 confirmed and 261 probable. There are 1,005 hospitalized patients, with 181 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 14,242 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 114,390. Additionally, there were 4,133 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 23,833.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

12/9/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,757 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 8, for a total of 152,369 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 570 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 24,283 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 14,581 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas, a new record, and there have been 135,214 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,184 probable active cases and there have been 19,863 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,552 confirmed and 234 probable. There are 1,064 hospitalized patients with 179 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,806 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total PCR tests in December to 99,561. Additionally, there were 3,270 antigen tests performed yesterday, for a total of 19,695 tests this month.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

12/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,437 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 7, for a total of 150,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 846 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 23,713 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 14,258 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 133,811 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,203 active probable cases and there have been 19,277 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,521 confirmed and 231 probable. There are 1,081 hospitalized patients, with 182 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 9,332 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 87,637. Additionally, there were 3,981 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 16,332.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor has set up community meetings with communities across the state to collect information on how localities are dealing with COVID. The first one was today in Saline County, where officials said that compliance with the mask mandate was very high. Vaccine distribution plans were also discussed to ensure that plans are in place when they are available.
  • Due to feedback from this meeting, the requirement for smaller indoor groups to have prior approval has been delayed. The restrictions are still in place for larger groups. Smaller groups are encouraged to follow the guidelines, although they are not required to do so.
  • FEMA has agreed to the use of 10 beds at the Veterans Administration hospital in Little Rock.
  • TTraumaCom is on target to help distribute COVID patients throughout the state by next week.
  • The state has acquired an additional 125,000 rapid test kits to be used at schools and local health facilities.
  • Asked about what feedback was given to discourage the greater restrictions on smaller indoor groups, Governor Hutchinson said that it was unclear to what they would apply. As a result, they will endeavor to clear up any concerns raised prior to implementation. Even if the restrictions aren’t in place, events have been canceled due to the danger of COVID.
  • Asked about the plans for vaccine distribution, Governor Hutchinson said they will be following the CDC guidelines. The doses will be distributed to health care workers and then, as the number of doses increase, to residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Asked about Attorney General Leslie Rutledge being photographed at events with Republicans without wearing a mask, Governor Hutchinson said that questions should be directed to the Attorney General.
  • Asked about implementing travel restrictions, Governor Hutchinson said they are not needed, but that non-essential travel is strongly discouraged.
  • Asked about why no restrictions are in place for those under 18, Governor Hutchinson said that they are under the same restrictions as anyone else.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Hospital bed and ventilator capacity is still adequate. Testing has been lower due to commercial labs, which Dr. Romero expects to pick up over the next couple of days, which would lead to a higher number of cases.
  • Dr. Romero again stresses the three W’s to help mitigate the spread. The CDC has also released additional guidelines to recommend the use of masks whenever indoors in public. Non-essential travel is also very strongly discouraged. If travel is necessary, testing both before and after, as well as ways to decrease risk during travel, is strongly encouraged, and those risks are listed on the CDC’s website.
  • Asked about testing delays in various parts of the state, Dr. Romero says that he hasn’t heard anything about it, but that the goal continues to be testing within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Asked about whether you can mix the first dose of one vaccine with the second dose of another, as well as whether the state will be receiving the appropriate dosage to ensure that people who get the first dose will also receive the second dose, Dr. Romero says that the state will receive the appropriate doses on a schedule. Vaccine doses are not interchangeable.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Sixteen districts have made modifications to on-site learning, which the Secretary says is a good number for the week after Thanksgiving. As of yesterday, there are 22 active modifications, and 317 have expired.
  • Across the state, 187 school districts, or 71%, have not had to make any district-wide modifications so far, while 75 have done so. A total of 828 schools, or 79%, have not had to have any kind of modification, compared to 222 schools that have implemented modifications.
  • The 125,000 tests acquired by the state have gone into the surveillance testing system, for which 72 districts have started to prepare.
  • Asked about why schools are still open with absentee numbers above 15%, when during flu season last year, they were allowed to go to four day weeks or close when numbers were below that, Secretary Key said that schools have been closing or going to remote learning as needed. Flu season is a much shorter period and days are made up later in the year. The Department of Education is working with school districts to ensure that any disruptions this year are appropriately handled.

Larry Shackelford: CEO of Washington Regional Medical Center (WRMC), member of the Winter COVID Task Force

  • The Winter COVID Task Force has been meeting weekly, as well as more frequently in subcommittees.
  • Although hospital capacity in Northwest Arkansas is acceptable, the increase in cases is a threat. Over the past couple of weeks, the number of hospitalizations has grown from the 70s to over 110. PPE is sufficient. Testing has also increased, and turnaround is under 48 hours.
  • The next two to four weeks are important. On behalf of all health care workers, the three W’s must be followed: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

Lance  Taylor: Executive Director of the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA)

  • They have received many letters from parents and students thanking them for allowing athletics to take place at schools so that the students can have some semblance of normalcy.
  • All sports that started this fall completed their seasons.

Dr. Michael Cima: Epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health

  • There has been an increase in time it takes for cases to be investigated for contact tracing, proportionate to the increase in total cases. The longer it takes to investigate the cases, the longer it would take to trace all the contacts.
  • Asked about contact tracing not necessarily agreeing with the idea the Governor said last week that bars, restaurants, gyms, and others were not the sources for the spread of COVID, Dr. Cima said that it is hard to pin down where someone is infected due to the long delay in incubation. They have been able to tie cases to Halloween clusters.

 

 

12/7/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,004 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 6, for a total of 149,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 114 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 22,867 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 14,235 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 132,433 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,822 active probable cases and there have been 18,815 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,485 confirmed and 228 probable, with the 53 new confirmed and probable deaths recorded yesterday being a record. There are 1,053 hospitalized patients, with 182 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 9,009 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 77,154. Additionally, there were 687 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 12,351.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

12/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There were 2,188 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 3, a one-day record,for a total of 144,910 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 639 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 22,227 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 13,608 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 128,911 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,424 active probable cases and there have been 17,585 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,370 confirmed and 216 probable. There are 1,041 hospitalized patients, with 191 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 13,451 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 38,165. Additionally, there were 2,701 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 8,465.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

12/3/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been a one-day record of 2,017 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 2, for a total of 142,722 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 772 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 21,588 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,822 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 127,537 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,287 active probable cases and there have been 17,087 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,343 confirmed and 212 probable. There are 1,072 hospitalized patients, with 190 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 13,228 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in December to 24,041. Additionally, there were 2,945 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 5,764.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • North Little Rock Police Sgt. J.L. “Buck” Dancy died yesterday after contracting COVID-19 during the apprehension of a suspect. He was the first police officer to die in the line of duty due to COVID-19. He was 62. Flags will be lowered until the time in which he is interred.
  • The CDC guidelines have been updated, and the Arkansas Department of Health will be adopting the guidelines. There are three main reasons for the adjusted guidelines. First, after seven days, there is a much smaller chance to test positive. Second, it is very difficult for people to quarantine for two weeks. Third, this should increase compliance as the new guidelines are easier to follow than the previous guidelines.
  • The new guidelines are that for those with no symptoms, it is still safest to continue to quarantine at home for 14 days since the most recent exposure to someone with COVID-19. However, it is now acceptable to quarantine at home for only 10 days with no test, and then monitor symptoms and take precautions for another four days. If it has been seven days since the exposure, and you have a negative PCR or antigen test after five days, then you do not need to quarantine, only monitor symptoms and take precautions for another seven days.
  • Arkansas has requested from FEMA access to 10 beds at the Veterans Hospital in Little Rock, including five ICU beds and five medical surgical beds to expand capabilities to handle the increase in cases. TraumaCom will help allocate these beds as needed. This will cost $1.9 million for 30 days, only about $500,000 will be covered by the state. This funding has already been approved by the legislature as part of the state’s emergency response capabilities. They hope to have the FEMA approval within the next 24 hours.
  • Three counties have over 200 new cases: Washington, Benton, and Pulaski. 32 counties have over 20 new cases.
  • Asked about the column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from Dr. Gary Wheeler which called for closing bars, restaurants, and non-essential businesses, Governor Hutchinson said that he hadn’t read the column, but that it was a time for everyone to do what is necessary to help stop the spread and ensure compliance with the guidelines. Governor Hutchinson is not interested in closing businesses.
  • Asked about compliance with the previous 14-day quarantine guideline, Governor Hutchinson said that beyond people being unwilling to spend 14 days in quarantine, contract tracing has been slowed due to respondents being unwilling to name names of contacts due to the required long quarantine. A shorter quarantine should both have more people willing to do the quarantine, as well as emphasizing the earlier part of the quarantine.
  • Asked about Dr. Cam Patterson tweeting warnings about family funerals rather than family Christmases, Governor Hutchinson said that he was focused on the difficult December, and encouraged about compliance with guidelines, the vaccines coming soon, and people helping others as much as they can. It will be a different Christmas this year.
  • Asked about why the request for additional beds was made now, Governor Hutchinson said that the challenges for the next three weeks have made that request important. Although hospitals can handle this now with some additional stress, any increase will cause more strain than they can handle. Treatments and waivers are being used to try to give more flexibility to the hospitals when it comes to patients. This request for VA beds has been worked on for the last week along with the VA administrators. The general assembly has approved $50 million in CARES funding, with $30 million for hospitals and $20 million for long-term care facilities to help them meet these pressing needs.
  • Asked about issuing bonuses to health care workers to help keep them in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson said that there is no funding right now for that, without any new federal funding.
  • Asked about dealing with the increase in hospitalizations by lowering the case counts rather than just increasing hospital capacity, Governor Hutchinson said that they are working on lowering cases, but that there is no new plan to make changes in policies to stop the spread beyond the three W’s and increasing compliance efforts.
  • Asked about whether a new CARES act with funding for small businesses would allow the state to close them down to stop the spread, Governor Hutchinson said that since there is no evidence of any particular industry or business being the cause of new cases, there is no reason to close bars, restaurants, or gyms because that will hurt the businesses. The vast majority of cases are coming from social events, and the state can’t regulate homes or churches. The state is attempting to limit gatherings to less than 10. If you are planning on a gathering of over 100 people, there must be a plan for it to be safe and it has to be approved by the Department of Health. The Winter COVID Task Force is looking at decreasing that limit to 20 people. The number of requests for approval for indoor gatherings has been decreasing as people are taking COVID more seriously. There have been around 100 requests, and there will be more scrutiny and closer inspections in the future for these events.
  • Asked about whether the decreased limit on indoor gatherings would limit restaurant seating, Governor Hutchinson said that there is already a limit of 10 people at a table and two-thirds capacity for the restaurant as a whole.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • The new guidelines are only for those who are completely asymptomatic.
  • The guidelines are in place for long-term care facilities as well as at correctional facilities. However, a negative test will be required to leave quarantine, as COVID can spread quickly and be devastating at these facilities.
  • Even with a negative test, you can still spread COVID. There is about a 4% chance with a PCR test, and about 5.5% or 6% with an antigen test.
  • The Department of Health recommends getting an antigen test at one of their facilities with an appointment. Schools will also have antigen testing capabilities for students and teachers to leave quarantine.
  • With the increase in cases, it is now time to be even more stringent following the three W’s: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance. This is the most important thing you can do to help stop the spread. It is everyone’s responsibility to help stop the disease from spreading. Without your help, it can’t be brought under control.
  • Asked about the vaccine distribution plans for poultry workers, Dr. Romero said that healthcare workers and essential worker categories will take priority. He heads the ACIP committee and they have looked at large outbreaks at poultry plants in both Arkansas and across the country. There is a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that these workers are treated well. They will ensure that the vaccine will be distributed appropriately.
  • Asked about moving middle school and high schools to virtual learning to help lessen the burden for potential spreading of cases, Governor Hutchinson said that it is important for students to receive on-site learning and that it is the safest environment for them.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The shorter quarantine guidelines are good news for the schools, as it will increase the number of teachers available. This will allow more students to go back to on-site learning from remote learning. Again, however, you still need to follow the three W’s to allow the state to have a successful school year.
  • Asked about the Little Rock School District having an active shooter drill which requires closer contact than is recommended, Secretary Key said that they have waived the requirements and put in place modifications for many drills, like fire, tornado, and active shooter drills, so that they are safer for the children and teachers.

Chris Barber: President & CEO of St. Bernard’s Healthcare, member of the Winter COVID Task Force

  • Hospitals are encouraged by the increase in outpatient treatments for COVID, such as monoclonal antibody treatments, which will potentially reduce the need for hospitalization.
  • The Winter COVID Task Force is working hard to reduce the spread, increase coordination, and use resources appropriately. The coming few months are going to be very challenging for the state, at a level that has never been seen before.
  • As hospitalizations have been a lagging indicator, hospitals have been updating their surge plans to prepare for the expected increase over the next few weeks. As PPE levels have been sufficient for months, staffing resources have been the main focus, making sure to keep doctors and nurses in Arkansas.

 

 

12/2/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,507 confirmed cases since yesterday, December 1, for a total of 140,705 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 705 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 20,816 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,399 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 125,975 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,979 probable active cases and there have been 16,625 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,312 confirmed and 210 probable. There are 1,088 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 186 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,095 PCR tests were performed. Additionally, there were 2,764 antigen tests performed yesterday.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

12/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,142 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 30, for a total of 139,198 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 808 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 20,111 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,409 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 124,466 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,685 active probable cases and there have been 16,216 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,304 confirmed and 208 probable. There are 1,074 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 195 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 5,161 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 333,142. Additionally, there were 4,365 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 59,171.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor thanks everyone who had a different kind of Thanksgiving this year, following the state guidelines. The results will only be clear in a couple of weeks.
  • Additionally, Governor Hutchinson also thanks all the healthcare workers across Arkansas who have been working for 10 months to fight COVID. They started with an enormous amount of stress, and it has only continued. As hospitalizations have increased, he is grateful for all their efforts to help care for their patients.
  • Governor Hutchinson is also grateful for the work on the vaccines, from the pharmaceutical companies that created them, to the FDA who will follow appropriate steps to approve them, to the state preparing to distribute them when they are available. They will make decisions about prioritizing who receives the vaccine when it is clearer how much they receive, although it is already clear that there will not be enough vaccine available initially to cover even the top priority of health care workers and those in a nursing home setting. He believes it is important that the FDA, the state, and others build confidence in the vaccine and the review process. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to distribute the vaccine once it is approved, with the goal to be to have doses in Arkansas within 24 hours of that approval.
  • Governor Hutchinson is also grateful to the Winter COVID Task Force for their work on hospitalizations and resource management. The Task Force has sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar asking to expedite Medicare and other patients out of the hospital with their doctor’s approval to free up more beds for COVID patients.
  • Over a third of all ICU beds across Arkansas are occupied by COVID patients, with 57% occupied by COVID patients in the southwestern part of the state.
  • There is a growing recognition that keeping schools open is more important. Even in New York City, elementary schools are opening. Although there are times where schools must go to virtual learning, substitute teachers have been stepping up to limit that need. To help, the Arkansas Department of Education will waive the $75 application fee and speed up first-time licenses for those who will be graduating in the next semester. This is similar to what was done for new nurses. The 800 nurses who had already paid the application fee and are graduating in December will have the fee refunded.
  • Asked about how the limited doses of the vaccines might be distributed, Governor Hutchinson said that they will probably be bringing on additional people to the Winter COVID Task Force to help with those kind of questions. For example, the current estimate is that the state may receive only 25,000 doses, but the state has over 60,000 workers in the health care industry. That 25,000 number is the current estimate, but any numbers may change with additional guidance from the federal government and the CDC advisory committee with regards to both the number of doses and who is the highest priority for those doses.
  • Asked about how the effectiveness of COVID restrictions are being measured as well as a timeline for lifting them, Governor Hutchinson said that his goal was to lift them as soon as possible. The Winter COVID Task Force has been asked to measure the effectiveness as well as whether more would be needed. The data is lacking as to the source of new positive cases, so unless there is evidence of sources of spread, further restrictions on businesses are not needed.
  • Asked about why the TraumaCom system was only just now being used to help distribute the COVID caseload, Governor Hutchinson said that the Winter COVID Task Force didn’t exist to make the recommendation. Hospitals were also able to handle the case levels earlier without this. With more time and cases, it was clear that this was needed.
  • Asked about survey data which suggests that over 50% of Arkansas are not current on their rent or mortgage, Governor Hutchinson said that the Fresh Start program is what can be done at the state level as they wait for Congress to decide what will be included in another round of stimulus.
  • Fax machine reporting of test results is not an issue at the Department of Health, but is an issue at other facilities which are limited technologically. It would be better for the state to move to all electronic transmission of test results, but it is important to get the results however they are able.
  • The Governor wants everyone to trust in the safety of the vaccine, but will not jump ahead of health care workers in the line for the vaccine.

Troy Wells: CEO of Baptist Health

  • The Winter COVID Task Force has made a recommendation to the Governor to adjust the use of the TraumaCom system to help with handling new COVID patients. When a COVID patient arrives at a hospital or emergency department, they are assessed with a patient stratification tool with regards to their risk factors. Each hospital will also be assessed based on their capabilities, as well as available beds and ventilators. TraumaCom will help match patients with the facilities that are most capable of seeing the new patients so that fewer hospitals are overwhelmed. Dr. Jerrilyn Jones will head the implementation of this process, which will cost about $70,000 per month for the additional personnel, initially coming out of the Department of Health’s budget. It will also take about two weeks to start.
  • Asked about whether staffing in hospitals has changed both due to additional information about treatments for COVID as well as a lack of staff, Troy Wells said that any adjustments are not a result of planned changes, but are due to a short-term drop in nurses or doctors. This is something that happens whether COVID existed or not. They have planned for opening more beds around January for months, and have hired more people to make sure that occurs.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Chief Epidemiologist at Arkansas Department of Healthi

  • The 25,000 dose amount is all first doses for those vaccines that require two doses, and the second dose would be distributed at the appropriate time. Doses would be used as soon as possible to vaccinate as many people as possible to help slow COVID spread.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education

  • There are 29 current modifications for schools, which is less than last week. 10 started this week. Quarantines for teachers are the main driver for these modifications. This is why the fees have been waived and paperwork expedited for all applications from December 1 to April 1. Last year, that included 500 license applications.
  • Engage Arkansas is the program to help students who may not have returned to school in the fall or have not been participating as much as they had been. Currently, 110 school districts have opted-in to the program, and they are reaching out to over 5,000 students to reengage with them. Seventy-four percent have accepted academic coaching, and families have been very receptive to the help.
  • Dr. Pfeffer said that while older students may be more capable of handling remote learning for longer periods of time than younger students, challenges persist for extended remote learning. High school seniors are the greatest risk of dropping out according to the current data, suggesting that moving high schools to remote learning would not be beneficial. Remote learning also depends on access to technology, which is not evenly distributed across the state.

Dr. Jerrilyn Jones: Preparedness Medical Director, Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about the distribution of ICU bed availability, Dr. Jones said that metro area hospitals tend to have more beds than rural hospitals, as well as the ability to deal with cases outside the ICU. Some of the regional difference is the raw number of cases, but also hospital capabilities are a cause of the strain. The main goal is to keep all patients at the hospital where they show up, but it is important for the state and hospitals to have the capability to move patients around.
  • Asked about what would happen with a rapid change in symptoms for a COVID patient with regards to the TraumaCom system, Dr. Jones said that unlike with trauma that has decades of research into what is needed, COVID is still a relatively new disease. They will be assessed with a multi-step protocol to try to predict what sort of care would be needed, including with clinical markers for the most recent research.
  • Dr. Jones said that she has not heard of any issues with a lack of PPE for ambulance drivers who would be required to transport known COVID patients for the TraumaCom system to work.

Dr. Michael Cima: Epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Any missed tests are a result of lag from commercial labs. Mostly, that is a delay in reporting when the test is done to the state.

 

 

11/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 966 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 29, for a total of 138,056 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 146 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 19,303 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,816 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 122,926 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,324 active probable cases and there have been 15,770 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,295 confirmed and 207 probable. There are 1,063 hospitalized patients, with 201 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 9,669 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 326,273. Additionally, there were 531 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 54,806.

 

Governor Hutchinson issued a statement saying “today’s increase in hospitalizations will continue to strain our health care system. Our frontline workers need our help as we head into the winter months of this pandemic. Today, I received briefings from FDA Director Hahn; Dr. Fauci and Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar on the vaccine distribution plans as well as what is needed to meet the pressure on our health care system. Based upon national trends and expert concerns on the holiday season, it does seem that we are in the lull before the storm. I expect the antigen testing to pick up again later in the week and that is where many of the positive cases are identified. I applaud our health department team and all the health care workers who have been so diligent during this entire pandemic.”

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

11/25/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,423 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 24, for a total of 132,249 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 542 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 18,028 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 13,227 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 116,777 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,787 probable active cases and there have been 14,041 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,227 confirmed and 198 probable. There are 1,028 hospitalized patients, with 191 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 13,572 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 272,858. Additionally, there were 3,725 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 47,912.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the State. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

11/24/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,421 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 23, for a total of 130,826 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 701 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 17,486 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 13,352 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 115,248 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,705 active probable cases and there have been 13,583 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,208 confirmed and 197 probable. There are 988 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 160 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,359 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 258,124. Additionally, there were 4,571 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 44,130.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Happy Birthday to Priscilla Boyle, who turned 106 on November 22nd. She contracted COVID in June and spent a month in the hospital, but has recovered.
  • It takes on average about 37 hours from the test time for the result to be reflected in the Department of Health system. At the beginning of October, it took about 25 hours to start case investigation. As of now, it is up to 68 hours due to the system being overwhelmed. The time from a positive test to contact tracing was almost four days back in July, and is now back up to that level, again due to the increase in cases.
  • The CDC has now changed their contract tracing recommendations. They now recommend prioritizing tests within the last six days as well as household members, those who have been to a nursing home or congregate living facility, high density workplaces, and those with potentials for extensive transmission. The next priority would be to trace contacts with increased risk for severe illness, are part of a cluster, or were recently exposed. The lowest priority would be those who have positive tests within the last two weeks, as well as those who were exposed within the last two weeks.
  • The median timeframe for contact tracing is five days. Some cases are delayed due to the lab reporting late, and so those will not be prioritized for contact tracing.
  • Case investigations will be conducted on all positive cases. Positive cases from the last six days will be assigned to an ADH or vendor nurse for case investigation, while all others will be assigned to a non-nurse contact tracer for case investigation.
  • Governor Hutchinson reminds everyone to answer the call if it is coming from 877-272-6819 (877-ARCOV19), 833-283-2019 (833-CVD-2019), or 501-686-5875. Those are the numbers for the case investigators and contact tracers.
  • Additional staffing has been brought on to attempt to lower the delays in contact tracing, but the issues are a result of a delay from the test getting into the state system as well as the increase in cases. As of now, they do not need more staffing, but will be brought on if needed.
  • Of the nurses who are graduating in December, 80% have already paid the fees that Governor Hutchinson announced were being waived last week. There are no plans to go back to refund the fees. Those newly graduated nurses will not necessarily go straight into ICUs, treating COVID patients, but will allow for more experienced nurses to treat those COVID patients without having to provide care for other patients.
  • Some contact tracing is performed by employers or school districts, so state delays do not necessarily mean that the contact tracing has no value. People should still cooperate with contact tracers even if the process is slightly delayed.
  • Asked about concerns with in-person classes at University of Arkansas after Thanksgiving due to students coming back from places where there are rising cases, Governor Hutchinson said the students need to be careful and the schools should be giving good advice to get tested if needed. When pushed on the lack of personnel to do the increasing number of tests in Northwest Arkansas, unlike at the beginning of the pandemic when they lacked the testing, Governor Hutchinson said that there are other facilities that do have capacity to do the tests, and that they have not received any reports of testing facilities not having the personnel, but will be looked at.
  • Asked about how much excess capacity at hospitals and ICUs for COVID patients, Governor Hutchinson said that it is normal for the beds to be full in non-COVID times. The Winter COVID Task Force is focused on helping hospitals move patients out of ICUs if possible with additional treatments outside the hospital setting.
  • Asked about landlords not being willing to waive late fees for rents, leading to tenants having their rent relief aid being denied, Governor Hutchinson said that the landlords need to provide information about how to contact community organizations to help with the process. There are COVID-related reasons for delaying rent payments, and if the rental assistance is being used, there would not be any late fees needing to be waived. If there are still issues, tenants need to seek assistance from Legal Aid.
  • Asked about how the pandemic will affect the 2021 legislative package, Governor Hutchinson said that the Department of Health is allocated money needed for vaccine distribution and contact tracing, but more funds will be needed. Federal money is expected for vaccine distribution and contact tracing and case investigation support. The General Assembly is also going to need to play an important role in setting the budget in the next year.
  • Asked about the White House Task Force recommending reduced restaurant capacity as well as limiting extracurricular activities, Governor Hutchinson said that the Winter COVID Task Force is looking at these recommendations. The state has more current data than is acted upon, and the federal guidelines are national level. They are not going to put economic restrictions on businesses without having data to suggest that those businesses are the source of the problem. Other studies suggest that extracurricular activities are not sources of the spread.
  • The state will lead by example, encourage, market, and build confidence in the vaccine as a means to increase the number of people who voluntarily get immunized rather than imposing a mandate.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Plan more than food and football. With the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday, Dr. Romero recommends that you stay home with a small group, like your nuclear family. If you are not able to stay home, you should follow four guidelines to stay safe: stay outside, keep it brief, stay apart, and wear a mask. If you don’t follow these guidelines, a large increase in cases is a very grave possibility.
  • A third vaccine has shown positive results, and will be moving toward emergency use approval with the FDA. Those three vaccines will be looked at on December 10th. After that, they will be looked at by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the next step in the approval process. Any vaccines that are approved by both the FDA and the ACIP will be shipped to the states, although there will not be enough for everyone in the state. Priority will be given to health care workers and high-risk individuals. Although more doses will continue to be distributed, they do not believe there will be enough for everyone until the second or third quarter of next year. The distribution of the vaccines will be set once they are approved and production capacity is set. The current planning is for between 45,000 and 90,000 doses in the initial allotment. Although the ACIP has not finalized priorities for who gets the vaccine first, Tier 1A is health care workers and those living in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. Tier 1B is essential workers like teachers, people working at correctional facilities, and others who keep society working. The goal is for pharmacies to play an important role in the future distribution of the vaccines.
  • A second monoclonal antibody medication has been approved. This is Remdesivir, which was given to the President. There are approximately 1,200 doses of the two monoclonal antibody medication in Arkansas, including Bamlanivimab from Lilly. These are to be given before symptoms arise, so you should seek medical attention early, and for outpatient usage. Hospitals have been contacting the Department of Health to request the state’s doses of these medications, while the Department of Health has been monitoring the usage.
  • Again, the three W’s: Watch your distance, Wash your hands, and Wear your mask.

Troy Wells: CEO of Baptist Health, member of Winter COVID Task Force

  • At Baptist Health throughout the state, there are 199 hospitalized COVID patients. Of this number, 90 are at the Little Rock hospital, 45 are at the Fort Smith hospital, 42 are at the North Little Rock hospital, and the rest are spread throughout the smaller hospitals in the system. Of those patients, 60 are in critical care, and 47 are on ventilators. There are usually around 1,100 to 1,200 patients in the hospital system, so less than 20% of the hospital beds are taken up by COVID patients, but around a third of the critical care capacity is taken up by COVID patients.
  • In January 2021, Baptist Health will open another critical care unit with an additional 18 critical care beds at the Little Rock campus.
  • Having a full ICU is not scary, but the volume of turnover is the main focus, as patients move in and out over the day. Hospitals are good at managing ICU beds.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Last week, there were 41 on-site modifications at schools, down from the previous week when it was 46. There are 37 districts with some active form of on-site modification, and 267 have returned to normal after on-site modification. Sixty-seven percent of these modifications were targeted at just some grades within a school, not the entire school. Twenty-nine percent were for an entire district, which includes weather closures. Only 4% were for an entire school within a district.
  • Asked about a lack of teachers due to quarantining teachers, specifically Springdale Schools, Secretary Key spoke to the superintendent on Monday. They discussed how the school will be virtual for the next two weeks, with limited on-site education for students who are unable to participate in virtual education. The school will assess the data next week to see if there are enough teachers to go back to on-site education. Local school districts are handing issues like this well, distributing substitute teachers as needed.
  • Statewide testing for students is currently moving forward, with modeled data suggesting the state can hit the 95% requirement as set forth in federal law. The US Department of Education is not currently planning on waivers for the standardized tests.

 

 

11/23/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 912 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 22, for a total of 129,405 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 105 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 16,785 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 13,252 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 113,946 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,475 probably active cases and there have been 13,113 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,191 confirmed and 196 probable. There are 974 hospitalized patients, with 164 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 10,693 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 246,248. Additionally, there were 890 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 39,456.

 

Governor Hutchinson issued a statement today saying that the “decrease in new cases from last Monday” is a “hopeful sign.” He also noted that “hospitalizations are going up” and that “how we handle Thanksgiving will determine our hospitalizations around Christmas.”

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

11/20/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,618 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 19, for a total of 125,783 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 443 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 16,133 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 13,264 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 110,379 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,096 active probable cases and there have been 11,840 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,125 confirmed and 196 probable. There are 935 hospitalized patients, with 152 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 15,095 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 207,055. Additionally, there were 3,383 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 35,375.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Over the last two weeks, hospitalizations have increased across the state, other than in the Southeast region. Over a third of all ICU beds and ventilators are being used by COVID patients. Regional differences are large across the state and differ for ICU beds and ventilators.
  • Governor Hutchinson thanked the Winter COVID Task Force for the recommendation to close bars, restaurants, and clubs at 11pm to help limit the spread of COVID. The 11pm timeframe was set with coordination with the Arkansas Department of Health and ABC agents and compliance officers. This is as far as the Governor is currently planning on limiting businesses. Blanket restrictions are not planned, as some businesses are complying with the guidelines well, and those that aren’t are being fined and educated. The ending of the order on January 3 is 45 days out from the imposition of the order. Recommendations were to make sure that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve would be dates of concern, and so the order would help limit the spread of COVID. If cases and hospitalizations drop dramatically, the order could be lifted before the end, but could be extended if needed.
  • In the coming weeks, 1,104 nursing students across Arkansas will graduate. The Arkansas Board of Nursing will expedite licensing for those nursing graduates to help deal with the current nursing shortage in the state. The licensing process should take only 24 hours and all state fees will be waived. The background check will still need to be done and there is a $30 fee for that.
  • There is a bidding war for health care workers, and it is a challenge for both rural and urban hospitals. No state plan is in place to help with these costs or help keep them in Arkansas.
  • Governor Hutchinson is not worried about students going back to school after Thanksgiving and Christmas, as they are more structured than they would be if they didn’t go to in-person classes.

Dr. Cam Patterson: Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

  • There have been two meetings this week of the Winter COVID Task Force, which has also been split up into subcommittees that have also met multiple times this week.
  • There are over 60 days’ worth of PPE in the state and hospitals are able to adjust their supplies as needed. With the high number of tests today, it is clear that testing supplies are sufficient, as well.
  • The Task Force has created consistent guidelines for bringing health care workers back to caring for patients after contracting or being exposed to COVID. The guidelines will be distributed today to hospitals. As an example of the issues this has caused, over 400 employees at UAMS are currently in quarantine after being exposed. For those that have a positive test, the guidelines recommend staying quarantined for 10 days. If they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, the guidelines recommend 14 days. For essential health care workers, five to seven days after exposure, they are allowed to go back to work with additional precautions after a negative PCR test. In extreme situations at hospitals that do not currently exist at any hospitals in Arkansas, COVID-positive workers are allowed to care for COVID-positive patients only if they are asymptomatic and segregated from COVID-negative workers.
  • The Task Force has prepared a plan to redistribute health care workers and resources using the Traumacom system, created by the legislature in 2009. The Traumacom system assesses the resources available and allows communication to transfer patients between facilities. The exact application of this has not been determined, as to whether it will recommend patients go straight to another facility or whether they will be transported by the facilities. This has not yet been implemented, but is an example of what the Winter COVID Task Force is looking at to deal with the increasing amount of COVID patients.
  • As Thanksgiving approaches, he recommended limiting the event to your nuclear family only, as well as making sure to wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
  • The turnaround time for testing depends on whether the facility can do the test in-house. At big facilities that can do them in-house, the turnaround time is usually going to be less than 24 hours. UAMS can do it as quickly as three hours. At regional centers, turnaround time is less than 48 hours. From large national labs like Qwest, it was taking up to a week, but at the beginning of November it was down to 24 hours. However, with the dramatic increase in cases nationally, it is back to three to four days.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Although there are currently enough beds, after previous holidays, there has been a surge of cases and hospitalizations. As the state is already at a very high level of cases, make sure to wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
  • The CDC guidelines for the holidays have been released. They strongly discourage travel outside the area, not just nationally, but also within the state. A small gathering of less than 10 people, preferably only those who are living at your home. Do not bring in any people living at nursing homes or assisted living facilities. There is a required quarantine period for them when they return to the facility. Opening windows if you do have people in your home is encouraged. Get tested before you travel.
  • Pfizer has applied to the FDA for accelerated approval for their COVID vaccine. The FDA will take about three weeks to adjudicate the efficacy and safety before ruling on it. A second vaccine will also apply for accelerated approval within the next week or two. As such, these vaccines should be available next month, but will only be distributed to those who are high risk as determined by the CDC.
  • There continues to be no events identified as large spreaders of COVID, and small gatherings are still believed to be the main sources of the spread.

Larry Shackelford: CEO of Washington Regional Medical Center (WRMC)

  • The three most important things to do to stop the spread of COVID are to wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. However, gathering in groups is also a serious threat. Limit gatherings to 10 or fewer, or just two households.
  • In Northwest Arkansas, there has been a 40% increase in patients with COVID needing inpatient care at hospitals. If two weeks after Thanksgiving, there is an increase in cases similar to those after July 4 or Labor Day, it will be extremely difficult to meet the needs of both COVID and non-COVID patients.

 

 

11/19/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,684 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 18, for a total of 124,165 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 554 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 15,690 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,911 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 109,135 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,087 active probable cases and there have been 11,410 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,105 confirmed and 192 probable. There are 899 hospitalized patients with 146 on ventilators, a new peak.

 

Yesterday, 11,560 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 190,589. Additionally, there were 2,034 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 31,940.

 

Governor Hutchinson has announced that the Winter COVID Task Force has recommended that all bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell alcohol for consumption in their establishment will be required to close at 11pm. The Governor has agreed with this “balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state.” This restriction will go into effect Friday, November 20, and remains in effect until January 3. Any establishments that violate this new directive can be punished by a fine between $100 and $500, or one months imprisonment, or both.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

 

11/18/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,328 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 17, for a total of 122,481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 387 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 15,136 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,611 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 107,772 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,966 probable active cases and there have been 10,979 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,085 confirmed and 190 probable. There are 901 hospitalized patients, with 143 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 9,924 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 177,552. Additionally, there were 2,467 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 29,787.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

11/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,145 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 16, for a total of 121,153 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 409 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 14,749 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,569 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 106,515 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,007 probable active cases and there have been 10,553 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,057 confirmed and 188 probable. There are 895 hospitalized patients, with 137 on ventilators, both new peaks.

 

Yesterday, 7,452 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 166,519. Additionally, there were 3,234 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 27,320.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Winter COVID Task Force has met and is meeting in subcommittees. The Governor is expecting recommendations on staffing shortages, availability of beds for COVID patients at hospitals, and slowing community spread soon. There will not be a written list of recommendations.
  • There will be a call on Thursday with President-elect Biden and his transition team with the National Governor’s Association. This will prepare Biden for January 20th, and will allow for him to learn what is going on across the country with regards to COVID and other issues.
  • The Governor read from the most recent White House report about Arkansas: “Given the change in the slope post-Halloween, Arkansas is on the precipice of a rapid accelerating increase in cases which will be followed by new hospital admissions.” At the current rate of the last two days, they estimate that an additional 1,000 Arkansans will die between now and Christmas.
  • There has been an average of around 1,600 new combined cases this week. The seven-day rolling average of percent positives is back around 10% over the last few days, and over 20% of all antigen tests return a positive result for the seven-day average.
  • The growth rates of total cases across the public health regions is 9.9% in the central region, 10.4% in the northeast, 8.6% in the northwest, 5.9% in the southeast, and 8.8% in the southwest. Across age groups, the growth rates are under 18s at 10.1%, 18-24 at 7.6%, 25-44 at 9.1%, 45-64 at 9.5%, and 65+ 9.3%.
  • There have been 3,700 compliance checks and have cited 181 violations since June 29, with 210 verbal warnings. There have been multiple fines given to businesses that have not followed the guidelines.
  • There has been a lot of support for businesses in Arkansas with the legislature approving $50 million in additional Business Interruption Grants (BIG) approved by the CARES Act Steering Committee above and beyond the $147 million in the Ready for Business grants.
  • Governor Hutchinson went to a Bentonville High School boys basketball game, where there was limited seating and tickets had to be purchased online. Everyone wore masks, but there was also a staff member there to ensure proper mask usage.
  • Asked about the White House recommendation to pause sporting events, Governor Hutchinson said that they have looked into encouraging the schools to adjust scheduling of the games to avoid as much contact between crowds. They do not plan on cancelling athletic events, because that would be terrible for the health of the young people.
  • Asked about the White House recommendation to limit capacity at restaurants to 25%, Governor Hutchinson said that even cutting it to 33% would end up shutting down a lot of businesses as they are barely hanging on now. The business grant funding is out and so there is no more money to help businesses if they have to shut down again. Without any data to show a link between the business and COVID cases, it would be wrong to shut them down.
  • Contact tracing is still effective and a key feature of dealing with the spread of COVID, and the timeline of contacts and responses have been improving. With the increase in cases, contact investigators have been overwhelmed, which is the first step before sending out the information to the contact tracers. The additional 30 national guard members are helping with contact investigation, not contact tracing.
  • Asked about limiting hours of bars and restaurants, Governor Hutchinson said that any changes should be driven by the data, which says that it is small events causing the spread. He recommends everyone be careful over Thanksgiving if and when they might be with family.
  • Asked about the Trump administration limiting the transition to President-elect Biden and how that might affect the ability to fight COVID, Governor Hutchinson said they had a two-hour long conference call on Monday with the National Governor’s Association about COVID, so they are engaged and want a seamless transition. They are preparing for vaccine distribution to start in the near future.
  • Asked about how the messaging about limiting Thanksgiving events while still allowing indoor weddings with dozens of people isn’t a contradiction, Governor Hutchinson said that is important to be careful in small gatherings, especially when it comes to the vulnerable population. He said that he would have only seven family members at his Thanksgiving dinner. Larger venues have to be approved by the Department of Health.
  • Governor Hutchinson said there is currently no set level of ICU beds available that would trigger any additional restrictions. The Winter COVID Task Force will look at this to see if there are any trigger points. The number of beds is less of a concern than the staffing levels at the hospitals.
  • Governor Hutchinson said that the state is operating safely and that there is no need to allow state employees to go back to working remotely.
  • Asked about limiting nursing home visitations due to the increasing cases and deaths there, Governor Hutchinson said that there is no need to do so as had been done in the past.
  • Asked about additional needs for funding as well as how it is being spent, Governor Hutchinson said that expenses should be within the federal guidelines in the CARES act. He said that they are not currently planning on additional rental assistance. There are no plans for more Pandemic Unemployment Assistance due to Congress not passing additional stimulus.
  • The White House Task force does not have additional information about Arkansas, but does have the ability to synthesize data from surrounding states to help put case data in context. They do not have any better recommendations than following the three W’s as epidemiologists have recommended for months.
  • While CARES act funding ends on December 31, most contact tracing capabilities and other expenditures will last until March, so there is less concern about the end of December for when programs will end due to lack of funding.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Deaths are mainly from nursing homes and congregate living centers, and this is a serious concern.
  • Dr. Romero also said that Arkansas is on the precipice of a significant and possibly uncontrollable rise in cases. Like a boulder rolling down a hill, there will come a time when we cannot stop it, and it will eventually overwhelm our health care facilities. Now is the time to act, and we must follow the three W’s: wear your mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. With the coming holiday season, our vulnerable population should not be brought to their relatives’ homes because it may be a detriment to their health. Please consider postponing Thanksgiving to a later date for their safety and protect their lives.
  • The spread of cases is not linked to any particular event or type of business, which would suggest that this is widespread in the community in homes and small gatherings. The CDC agrees that small gatherings, under 10 in family groups, are a significant way it has spread. The CDC has looked at large events like weddings, and says that those that have caused outbreaks have been because people have lowered their guard.

Mike Moore: Regulatory Administrator for the Arkansas Beverage Control Division

  • Their team has been working hard to investigate compliance at bars and restaurants and the goal is to provide education about customer safety at bars, restaurants, and clubs. 93% are complying with the guidelines. However, that 7% can cause serious problems across the state, and even one or two non-compliant locations can help spread the disease.
  • Most of the violations have led to only verbal warnings. The goal is to allow as many locations to stay open as is safe. However, in the coming days, they will start to increase the punishments to increase compliance with the guidelines.

Stacy Hurst: Secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (DPHT)

  • The additional federal grant money is for businesses that have been affected by government orders related to COVID. These are in the hospitality and personal care industries. They will be based on reimbursements for expenses, but it is not a first-come, first-served grant. The portal, linked from Arkansasready.com, opened on November 16 and will be open until November 25. The portal also has a checklist for what is needed to complete the grant, as well as a 30 minute-long video to walk through the application. There is also a call center at 888-722-1554 open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. if your questions are not answered on the website.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Last week, 46 on-site modifications at school districts due to COVID cases. This could be anywhere from one grade level to the entire school district, if appropriate. 16 more have occurred so far this week. There are 72 active on-site modifications, and 204 have stopped their on-site modifications.
  • The increasing case load across the state has led to an increase in needed on-site modifications. This was planned for with the Ready for Learning guidance, and school districts are working well with the Department of Education and Health to understand their data and their needs to make the correct decisions for their collective goal: maximize the amount of time with on-site education for the maximum amount of students, while still emphasizing their health and safety.

 

 

11/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,165 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 15, for a total of 120,008 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 143 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 14,340 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 12,490 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 105,468 confirmed recoveries. There are 3,995 probably active cases and there have been 10,157 probable recoveries. Total deaths—2,038 confirmed and 187 probable. There are 861 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 123 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,329 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 158,113. Additionally, there were 620 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 23,998.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

 

11/13/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,559 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 12, for a total of 116,787 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 753 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 13,531 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 11,655 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 103,151 confirmed recoveries. There are 4,118 probable active cases and there have been 9,232 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,968 confirmed and 180 probable. There are 826 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 114 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 12,990 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 123,536. Additionally, there were 3,013 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 19,660.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that he would be signing a proclamation to lower the state flag to half-mast due to the shooting death of Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace.
  • There was a record number of cases and hospitalizations today. The Governor announced a COVID-19 Winter Task Force, which he will Chair along with Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe as the Vice-Chair, to provide recommendations regarding the challenges facing hospitals and how to address COVID during the winter months. He said that COVID is straining hospitals and their employees. Some hospitals are at close to 100% capacity with ICU beds and ventilators, having to find a balance between their regular operations, such as elective surgeries, and treating COVID patients. He noted that it is very competitive with hospital staff, with some out-of-state hospitals offering bonuses to recruit Arkansas workers.
  • The Winter Task Force will address four issues: (1) how to better coordinate the hospital case-load state wide; (2) how to increase hospital staffing resources; (3) how to increase compliance with the state’s mask mandate; and, (4) how to reduce the high number of cases. The Winter Task Force would not consider issues such as quarantine policies at chicken plants or policies implemented by general businesses. The task force does not necessarily have a set date for recommendations, as they will need to move fast, and the Governor expects that the Winter Task Force will be charged with setting timelines for additional steps to combat the pandemic. A member of the law enforcement community could end up on the Winter Task Force.
  • The Winter Task Force will consider anything, nothing is off the table, but the Governor prefers not to consider shutdowns, believing they cause more harm than good. He routinely asks the ADH and its Physician Advisory group what creative options he has available to combat the COVID pandemic. He wants to provide all his advisors the latitude to discuss anything that could be helpful.
  • The first meeting of the Winter Task Force will be November 16 at 8 a.m. via Zoom and will not be open to the public.
  • There will be a $1.6 million advertising budget to address combating COVID this winter, with $400,000 coming from CARES Act funds. Asked what marketing could be done to have someone who refuses to believe in the need for mask-wearing to begin to see the necessity, the Governor said he cannot imagine how someone could not be aware at this point. However, maybe there is a creative message to highlight the economic impact of rampant infections caused by non-compliance with the mask mandate.
  • The Governor also announced that he authorized 30 National Guard troops to assist ADH nurse investigators, who have become overwhelmed, with case investigations.
  • Earlier in the pandemic $70 million in bonuses were made available to front-line workers, but those funds have been exhausted. There are limited CARES Act funds currently, but state resources could become available.
  • Asked what could be done to stop the record number of cases, the Governor stressed the personal responsibility of complying with public health guidelines. The Governor highlighted Wal-Mart for their new directive providing updated guidance regarding social distancing and other measures to combat the spread of COVID.
  • The Governor stated that he does not plan for schools to transition to virtual only education, stating that in-person education is important for many students.
  • The Governor believes the football season has been largely successful. He knows Dr. Romero is more worried about the basketball season, since it is played indoors, and about activities that take place after the end of the games, like parties.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero said it was important for the public to follow the “3 W’s” of washing hands, watching distance, and wearing a mask to get the pandemic under the control. He noted that evidence is growing that mask-wearing can protect not only others but the mask-wearer. Asked about fining people for not wearing masks, he said he would leave it up to the Governor on matters such as that.
  • Dr. Romero made clear that ADH provided the Governor with options to address COVID in October, not recommendations, and their option regarding a shutdown had been mischaracterized.

Dr. Greg Bledsoe: Arkansas Surgeon General

  • Dr. Bledsoe said seven of his family members tested positive for COVID. Six of seven had mild to moderate symptoms but his 77-year-old father was hospitalized for 10 days. His father has been released but it is difficult to determine who will have the most serious symptoms. If 1/7 of those who catch COVID are hospitalized, he said that would overwhelm hospitals.

Dr. Jerrilyn Jones: Preparedness Medical Director, Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Jones said that in her conversations with Hospital CEOs they can manage their caseloads, but it is becoming clear that this pandemic is a marathon not a sprint.

 

 

11/12/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,285 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 12, for a total of 115,228 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 524 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 12,778 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 10,896 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 102,355 confirmed recoveries. There have been 9,002 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,964 confirmed and 180 probable. There are 805 hospitalized patients with 116 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 11,164 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 109,251. Additionally, there were 1,740 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 16,608.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the 7-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

11/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,027 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 10, for a total of 113,943 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 755 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 12,254 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 10,399 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 101,583 confirmed recoveries. There have been 8,782 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,947 confirmed and 179 probable. There are 801 hospitalized patients, with 116 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 9,390 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 97,375. Additionally, there were  2,247 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 14,868

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

11/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 975 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 9, for a total of 112,736 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 449 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 11,449 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 10,105 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 100,684 confirmed recoveries. There have been 8,551 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,934 confirmed and 178 probable. There are 810 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 127 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 7,175 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 87,352. Additionally, there were 1,787 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 12,553.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by discussing COVID as it relates to places of worship. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) revised guidelines for places of worship state that it is possible to worship safely in-person if the ADH guidelines are followed. Unmasked congregational singing is the primary driver of church transmissions. The guidelines are different now because the new guidelines state to wear a mask even when singing. Approximately 20 counties have reported cases associated with places of worship.
  • The Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the Pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church stressed that the guidelines should be respected and are of great help. The guidelines should be followed for safety and care for others.
  • Governor Hutchinson stated that Arkansas’s positivity rate is approaching 10% again.
  • The highest growth rate is in Northeast Arkansas at 9.7%. The highest growth rate by age group is those over 65 at 8.6%.
  • Asked why he was not adding additional restrictions despite a continued increase in cases, Governor Hutchinson said that all public health officials across the globe agree that mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing are the most important things that can be done to reduce cases. If people do those things, then additional restrictions are not needed. He believes Arkansans are still listening to his message of personal responsibility. He is repeating the same message Dr. Fauci and other epidemiologists have been saying for eight months.
  • In response to a question about the recommendations he was presented with by ADH, such as closing businesses for 28 days, Governor Hutchinson said he has opted not to implement all the suggestions.  He has implemented  some, such as increasing compliance with ADH directives and marketing. He may conduct additional press conferences, as it was said there was a greater sense of urgency when he held daily press conferences. He still cannot anticipate a scenario where businesses are shut down, unless potentially if hospitals were significantly overwhelmed.
  • Regarding a poll of Arkansans from the UAMS Boozman College of Public Health that said there is a tepid acceptance level to a potential COVID vaccine, the Governor said a high level of confidence in a vaccine is important. He said that Arkansans are being cautious, but he believes the response will be warmer closer to the time period when the vaccine is available. He has spoken with HHS Secretary Azar about the need for vaccine marketing to the public.  Medical workers will receive the vaccine first.
  • Asked about the Supreme Court hearing a case requesting that the Affordable Care Act be invalidated and whether there was a Plan B if the Supreme Court overturned the law, the Governor said he has held discussions on the matter. He believes the Supreme Court would provide a long timeline to Congress to make provisions due to the breadth and complexity of the law. Until then, there is only a minimal level of planning that can occur.
  • The Governor does not believe the state football playoffs should be canceled, as the circumstances are different now versus in the spring when the basketball playoffs were canceled. There was more fear and uncertainty then, with more knowledge of how to prevent the spread of COVID now.
  • The Governor is prepared to work with President-elect Biden regarding addressing COVID, but he has not spoken with him. He worked well with Vice President Biden when the Governor was in Congress and headed the DEA.
  • The Governor is not aware of other states sending their COVID patients to Arkansas.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero believes that increased cases are likely due to Halloween. If the ADH guidelines are not followed, then cases may increase significantly over the holidays. He does not recommend families taking loved ones from nursing homes or assisted living  facilities for Thanksgiving meals, as he is concerned about the increases in cases at nursing homes. Holiday guidance has been approved by the Governor and will be posted on the ADH website.
  • The vaccine data from Pfizer is very promising. There likely will be a limited supply of vaccines made available when it is approved for distribution. Certain hospitals and ADH will receive the first doses, which will be apportioned out to healthcare workers first. Dr. Romero noted five vaccines have been approved for Phase III trials by the FDA.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • There are 21 schools with onsite modifications due to COVID, up from six the week before. There have been 14 schools with onsite modifications this week.
  • Secretary Key stressed that it is a rumor and not true that schools will be ordered to be all virtual after Thanksgiving. That is not the plan recommended by the Arkansas Department of Education.

 

 

11/9/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 829 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 8, for a total of 111,761 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 116 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 11,050 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 9,957 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 99,861 confirmed recoveries. There have been 8,340 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,930 confirmed and 178 probable. There are 786 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 116 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 9,358 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 79,246. Additionally, there were 721 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 10,675.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

 

11/6/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,446 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 5, for a total of 108,738 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 424 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 10,492 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 8,850 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 97,997 confirmed recoveries. There have been 7,749 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,878 confirmed and 178 probable. There are 706 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 107 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 12,356 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 44,612. Additionally, there were 2,285 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 7,073.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

11/5/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,155 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 4, for a total of 107,292 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 393 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 10,068 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 8,140 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 97,276 confirmed recoveries. There have been 7,850 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,863 confirmed and 174 probable. There are 667 hospitalized patients, with 103 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,450 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in November to 32,908. Additionally, there were 1,728 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 4,752.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

11/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 914 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 3, for a total of 106,137 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 379 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 9,675 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,837 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 96,433 confirmed recoveries. There have been 7,329 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,854 confirmed and 172 probable. There are 642 hospitalized patients, with 111 on ventilators.

 

8,193 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 22,030 performed in November. 1,167 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 3,024 performed in October.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.
The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

11/3/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 520 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 2, for a total of 105,223 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 358 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 9,296 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,814 confirmed and 2,022 probable active cases of COVID in Arkansas. There have been 95,563 confirmed and 7,103 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,833 confirmed and 170 probable. There are 667 hospitalized patients, with 121 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 5,131 PCR tests and 1,279 antigen tests were performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson reminded everyone to go and vote.
  • Governor Hutchinson outlined the state’s strategy to fight COVID-19 this winter. We can reduce COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations through a layered strategy of social distancing, compact crowd avoidance, masking, getting a flu shot, testing, contact tracing and quarantining, compliance checks, a marketing campaign to remind people of the importance of each layer, and working on a vaccine distribution plan. Each layer builds upon the other layers. The state is increasing its investment in the marketing effort.
  • COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the state, behind cancer and heart attack. Governor Hutchinson reminded everyone this is a deadly virus that takes peoples’ lives.

Bo Ryall: CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association

  • Though hospitalizations have decreased, hospital bed capacity in northeast and central Arkansas is tight. There is no deficiency in PPE or testing supplies, rather the more pressing issue is the availability of healthcare workers to staff the beds. There is a shortage of healthcare workers due to fatigue, competition, costs, and community exposure. Though we have grown weary, we must remember our healthcare heroes are also exhausted working around the clock to see COVID patients.
  • COVID patients account for 10% of occupied beds and 26% of occupied ICU beds. Currently, 31% of ventilators are in use by COVID patients. These are some of the highest numbers they have seen in those areas.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • As of this morning, 10 districts were still implementing some type of on-site modification. To date, 185 schools have returned from an on-site modification to regular operations.
  • One of the biggest concerns from educators continues to be the engagement of students in online learning. To combat this issue, 118 districts are participating in the Engage Arkansas initiative. The initiative has over 15,000 referrals for students who were not engaging at the proper level.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Twelve counties reported more than 20 cases yesterday: Benton, Washington, Pulaski, Craighead, Sebastian, Saline, Greene, Faulkner, Miller, Mississippi, White, and Crawford Counties.
  • Dr. Romero reminded everyone to think very seriously about family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. He recommended gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer and to persons within immediate family. At this time, a lot of the transmission is occurring within families and small gatherings.
  • Dr. Romero believes the state has a sufficient number of contact tracers; though, if we continue to see our virus numbers increase, we may need to increase the number of tracers.

 

 

11/2/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 464 confirmed cases since yesterday, November 1, for a total of 104,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 120 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 8,938 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 8,209 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 94,664 confirmed recoveries. There have been 6,843 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,817 confirmed and 168 probable. There are 688 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 119 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 7,866 PCR tests and 578 antigen tests were performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

10/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 817 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 29, for a total of 102,405 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 345 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 8,469 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,829 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 92,827 confirmed recoveries. There have been 6,338 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,737 confirmed and 163 probable. There are 668 hospitalized patients, with 101 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 11,069 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in October to 288,549. Additionally, there were 1,329 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 38,473.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

10/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 837 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 28, for a total of 101,588 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 235 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 8,124 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,672 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 92,172 confirmed recoveries. There have been 6,168 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,732 confirmed and 162 probable. There are 666 hospitalized patients, with 100 on ventilators.

 

Yesterday, 10,906 PCR tests were performed, bringing the total performed in October to 277,599. Additionally, there were 1,241 antigen tests performed yesterday, increasing the monthly total to 37,144.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. This chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health before that date, but corrected results since then.

 

 

 

10/28/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 690 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 27, for a total of 100,751 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 271 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 7,889 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,584 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 91,441 confirmed recoveries. There have been 6,009 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,714 confirmed and 161 probable. There are 662 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators.

 

7,105 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 265,674 performed in October. 1,457 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 35,903 performed in October.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

10/27/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 671 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 26, for a total of 100,061 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 301 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 7,618 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,796 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 90,559 confirmed recoveries. There are 1,694 active probable cases and there have been 5,763 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,696 confirmed and 161 probable. There are 676 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 94 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,000 PCR tests performed yesterday, with 258,820 performed in October. 1,795 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 34,446 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. This chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health before that date, but corrected results since then.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor was appreciative of those that prayed for the country, state, and for efforts to combat COVID on Sunday. He said that while some say the country is losing the battle against COVID and we just have to live with it, he was reminded of the words of Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones. Admiral Jones, when asked if he was prepared to surrender, said that his men had not yet begun to fight. The Governor said he wakes up every day thinking about what more could be done to combat COVID.
  • Testing is occurring at record levels and medicines have improved, but the state needs more engagement from Arkansans following the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines. The state has a record level of active cases and hospitalizations. Hospitals continue to have adequate space, but they do not want to have to cut back on elective procedures.
  • The highest growth rate in the state continues to be Northeast Arkansas, with a 7.7% growth rate. The highest growth rate by age group is those over 65, at 7.9%. The Governor noted that cases amongst college age students have decreased, likely due to behavior changes. Also, while there is an increase in cases from nursing homes, the increase is also due to individuals becoming less careful, perhaps not being vigilant in mask-wearing while gathering.
  • The Governor anticipates over 300,000 PCR tests being performed this month, which will be approximately 10% of the population.
  • The Governor noted he was pleased the number of active cases amongst working and attending K-12 schools has decreased week over week.
  • Asked if he would reimpose restrictions on elective procedures due to increased hospitalizations, the Governor said he did not anticipate doing so. He said hospitals will have to balance the needs of all patients, but they are able to coordinate with other hospitals to ensure that the hospital systems do not become overwhelmed. Staffing is the biggest issue for hospitals. He does not anticipate medical rationing like what is occurring in Utah.
  • The Governor does not anticipate placing additional restrictions on businesses. He said the key remains individuals being disciplined with their mask-wearing and social distancing. The state has actively engaged in disciplining businesses for non-compliance with ADH guidelines and educating its citizens. Fines can be levied against individuals for failure to wear a mask or businesses for failure to comply with ADH directives. Both law enforcement and state regulators can issue warnings and citations. He believes the right approach has occurred at the state level, but local communities are vital to ensuring compliance. He does not expect there will be repercussions for local governments, as the state’s response is a partnership, and he does not believe anyone wants the Governor to control everyone’s behavior.
  • The Governor has continued to test negative for COVID, illustrating the importance of social distancing. He expects to resume his public appearances later this week, after previously limiting his public engagement.
  • Regarding Halloween, the Governor said cloth masks, not just Halloween masks, should be worn. He wants Arkansans to enjoy the holiday, but they may need to limit gatherings.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • The majority of deaths are coming from nursing homes.
  • Dr. Romero stated that ADH met with Operation Warp Speed to discuss the plans for vaccine distribution. ADH is planning for receipt and sites where the vaccines can be stored, as the vaccines will likely require ultracold storage facilities.
  • Regarding the upcoming holidays, Dr. Romero said it is very important to consider whether to bring families together, especially older family members.
  • There are more non-COVID cases in ICU beds than those with COVID. There are ICU beds available at Arkansas hospitals. Hospitals have the ability shift ICU patients to other hospitals in their region.
  • The state is not seeing spillover cases in Northeast Arkansas from Missouri and Tennessee.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Regarding on-site modifications due to COVID cases, 11 schools made modifications last week, the lowest weekly number since school began. 17 schools have active modifications and 169 schools have inactive modifications.
  • 14 schools have been identified to receive rapid-testing COVID kits. Eight have opted-in while five asked for more time or have not responded. One school district, Springdale, declined. They declined as they have one school that would receive the testing kit and the school district has strong medical partnerships district-wide. They wanted to ensure other schools had access to the testing resources. ADH will ship the kits on Thursday and testing should begin on Monday. For the second round of testing, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) is identifying 20 schools for the program.

 

 

10/26/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 530 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 25, for a total of 99,410 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 82 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 7,317 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,995 confirmed active cases and 1,576 probable active cases. There have been 89,730 confirmed recoveries and 5,584 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,676 confirmed and 157 probable. There are 649 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 102 on ventilators.

 

6,965 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 250,426 performed in October. 641 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 32,651 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. This chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health before that date, but corrected results since then.

 

 

 

10/23/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,047 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 22, for a total of 97,339 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 290 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 6,796 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,667 confirmed active cases and 1,462 probable active cases. There have been 88,037 confirmed recoveries and 5,178 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,626 confirmed and 156 probable. There are 624 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators.

 

10,740 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 220,623 performed in October. 2,309 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 29,914 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. This chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health before that date, but corrected results since then.

 

 

 

10/22/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 893 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 21, for a total of 96,292 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 309 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 6,506 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,357 confirmed active cases and 1,373 probable active cases. There have been 92,288 confirmed and probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,616 confirmed and 156 probable. There are 612 hospitalized patients, with 96 on ventilators.

 

10,039 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 208,923 performed in October. 1,405 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 27,568 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. This chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health before that date, but corrected results since then.

 

 

 

10/21/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 981 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 20, for a total of 95,399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 174 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 6,197 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,272 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 86,520 confirmed recoveries. There have been 4,797 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,599 confirmed and 152 probable. There are 636 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators.

 

8,674 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 197,717 performed in October. 1,368 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 26,079 performed in October.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

 

10/20/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 628 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 19, for a total of 94,418 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 216 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 6,023 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,159 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 85,675 confirmed recoveries. There are 1,263 active probable cases and there have been 4,608 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,576 confirmed and 152 probable. There are 637 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 101 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,439 PCR tests performed yesterday, with 187,970 performed in October. 2,429 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 24,638 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his 153 press conference since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. This press conference was held remotely.
  • The Governor announced that the state’s unemployment rate fell from 7.4% to 7.3%, which is good news for the economy.
  • The Governor announced that on Friday, October 16, he met with someone who later tested positive for COVID. He took a PCR test and antigen test yesterday, which were negative. In an abundance of caution, based on advice from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the Governor will limit his public appearances and meetings. The Governor does not want individuals to feel uncomfortable about meeting with him. This is even though he was more than six feet away from the infected individual for less than 15 minutes, in compliance with CDC guidelines. There are others in the administration following the same protocols as the Governor.
  • The Governor noted that he flew around the state campaigning yesterday for Issue 1, regarding the highway tax, but would not have done so if he had tested positive. Everyone on the plane wore masks. The Governor was impressed with the mask-wearing and compliance with ADH directives in all five of the cities he visited yesterday.
  • Northeast Arkansas continues to have the highest growth rate of COVID cases at 8.3%. The age group with the highest growth rate is those over the age of 65, with a 7.5% growth rate.
  • The Governor will issue a proclamation stating that Sunday, October 25, will be a voluntary day of prayer, asking for assistance in addressing the pandemic.
  • Asked about cities and counties that were unaware of the CARES Act funds for local governments, the Governor said he relies on the Arkansas Municipal League (AML) and Arkansas Association of Counties (AAC) to inform their members. He said he would continue to work with the AML and AAC to ensure awareness of the opportunity.
  • Regarding fines for businesses for failure to comply with the mask-wearing mandate, the Governor said there have been enforcement actions against regulated businesses. For non-regulated businesses, he has found that there is usually compliance when they are notified of their noncompliance. He does not expect individuals to be arrested for non-compliance with the mask-wearing directive.
  • In response to a question about the White House Coronavirus Task Force report saying there are 28 Arkansas counties in the red zone and whether that means that high school football should be cancelled in those counties, the Governor said no. He said that those guidelines are clear about intimate gatherings, but individuals could comply with social distancing and other ADH directives while in the stands. While players would be in close contact, it is for a limited duration.
  • Asked about what Northeast Arkansas needed to do to bring down its cases, the Governor said it was a responsibility of everyone in the community. It is important to drive down the number of cases, in order to relieve pressure on hospitals.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • There has been a cluster of deaths associated with a nursing home in Little River County.
  • Dr. Romero said the mask mandate is not being adhered to based on the sustained number of high cases daily. He believes at least 50% of the population is not wearing a mask consistently. He said that the CDC has noticed more cases associated with family gatherings, as individuals tend to drop their guard around family. With the holidays, families may need to limit their exposure to large groups of family members.
  • Asked about the demographics of those  who have died from COVID, Dr. Romero said the elderly are at the highest risk and a substantial number of deaths have come from nursing homes.
  • Regarding the Governor, Dr. Romero said he did not need to quarantine. He recommended the Governor take precautionary measures. The Governor will be tested on Wednesday, Friday and next Monday with PCR and antigen tests. If the Governor develops symptoms, then he will receive a PCR test immediately.

Johnny Key:Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • For the week of October 11-17, 20 school districts required modification. There have been 158 modifications required since the beginning of the school year.
  • Regarding rapid tests for schools, the schools who will receive them have been notified. They are receiving them based on their number of positive cases and ADH guidance identifying the schools as good candidates.
  • Asked about whether the deaths of school personnel from COVID were prompting any changes, Secretary Key said every death was a tragedy, so it reminds everyone to continue to take precautions.

 

 

10/19/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 434 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 18, for a total of 93,790 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 97 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 5,807 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,450 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 84,770 confirmed recoveries. There have been 4,447 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,562 confirmed and 152 probable. There are 613 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators.

 

8,918 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 181,381 performed in October. 803 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 22,209 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 814 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 15, for a total of 92,117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 201 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 5,422 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,420 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 83,174 confirmed recoveries. There have been 4,082 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,514 confirmed and 151 probable. There are 590 hospitalized patients, with 102 on ventilators.

 

11,066 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 151,296 performed in October. 3,946 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 19,821 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,068 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 14, for a total of 91,303 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 210 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 5,221 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,272 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 82,529 confirmed recoveries. There have been 3,918 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,494 confirmed and 151 probable. There are 594 hospitalized patients, with 106 on ventilators.

 

10,786 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 139,454 performed in October. 1,094 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 15,823 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 884 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 13, for a total of 90,235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 195 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 5,011 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,924 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 81,819 confirmed recoveries. There have been 3,778 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,484 confirmed and 150 probable. There are 587 hospitalized patients, with 113 on ventilators.

 

7,141 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 127,432 performed in October. 1,946 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 14,729 performed in October.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/13/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 481 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 12, for a total of 89,351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 199 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 4,816 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,744 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 81,136 confirmed recoveries. There are 1,000 active probable cases and there have been 3,668 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,463 confirmed and 148 probable. There are 605 hospitalized patients with 110 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,909 PCR tests performed yesterday, with 119,277 performed in October. 1,477 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 12,783 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his weekly COVID-19 press conference in Hope at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.
  • The Governor noted that it was the seventh month anniversary of the pandemic, with the Governor issuing his first emergency declaration on March 11. As new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations due to COVID remain high in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson extended the state of emergency. He said the executive order extending the emergency allows for virtual learning for K-12 students, small business relief through limitations on liability, and telemedicine.
  • While hospitalizations remain high, the Governor said he was informed there was adequate hospital space in southwest Arkansas, where Hope is located.
  • During the October 4-10 time period, Northeast Arkansas had the highest growth rate in new cases at 7.9%. The highest growth rate by age group was those over 65, at 6.2%. The Governor noted that the highest rate of positivity is in the rural counties.
  • October COVID testing is poised to set a record. Testing remains a key part of the public health strategy to slow the spread of COVID.
  • Recently Arkansas Beverage Control inspectors inspected 118 businesses under their jurisdiction, and there was a 96% compliance rate.
  • Asked about new recommendations from his public health team due to the increase in hospitalizations, the Governor said they provided him some options, including both messaging and action items. He mentioned that closing businesses is not really an option, so individuals could choose to shop and spend money at businesses that follow public health guidance.
  • Asked about Attorney General Rutledge being photographed not wearing a facemask in public, Governor Hutchinson said it is important for leaders to set a good example and follow public health guidelines. He did note that he has been with her while she was wearing a facemask.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Dillaha urged everyone to get a flu shot. She mentioned that an individual recently passed away who was both positive for influenza and COVID.

 

 

10/12/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 568 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 11, for a total of 88,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 86 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 4,617 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,929 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 80,496 confirmed recoveries. There have been 3,559 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,438 confirmed and 148 probable. There are 608 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 104 on ventilators.

 

9,089 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 112,330 performed in October. 705 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 11,306 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,066 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 7, for a total of 85,980 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 199 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 4,165 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,207 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 78,405 confirmed recoveries. There have been 3,158 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,359 confirmed and 144 probable. There are 547 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 103 on ventilators.

 

10,749 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 66,496 performed in October. 1,444 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 6,907 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/7/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 684 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 6, for a total of 84,914 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 125 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,966 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,908 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 77,660 confirmed recoveries. There have been 3,043 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,337 confirmed and 145 probable. There are 538 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 98 on ventilators.

 

8,975 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 55,026 performed in October. 1,110 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 5,306 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/6/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 532 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 5, for a total of 84,230 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 109 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,841 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,970  confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there  have been 76,930 confirmed recoveries. There are 738 active probable cases and there have been 2,955 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,321 confirmed and 148 probable. There are 529 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 99 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,157 PCR tests performed yesterday with 45,712 performed in October. 1,059 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 4,196 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor paid tribute to Officer Kevin Collins of Pine Bluff, who died in the line of duty yesterday. The U.S. and state flag will be flown at half-mast.
  • The Governor believes that more Arkansans are taking COVID seriously after the President and First Lady tested positive for COVID. He does not believe that the consistency of following Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines would be diminished by the President’s statements about not being afraid of COVID. Asked about the Chairman of the Craighead County Republican Party passing away from COVID and social media posts from that area showing Republican Party officials not following ADH guidelines, the Governor said that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should follow ADH guidelines. Regarding an event he had recently attended, the Governor said he does not accept invitations to events unless the ADH guidelines are being met. At the specific event, the Governor said it was outside, spaced out, there was screening, and he wore a mask. He said he felt safe and would not have gone if he did not feel safe.
  • The Governor announced new protocols for nursing home visitations. Visitation can occur upon medical approval if a resident requires medical treatment or in compassionate care situations. Compassionate care situations include when a resident is not eating or is suffering from depression. The major change is reducing the length of time after a positive case from 28 to 14 days, which is consistent with a recent CMS memo. The Governor said protections remain in place to ensure both quality care and patient protection.
  • The Governor also issued guidance for the upcoming Halloween holiday. Recommendations included wearing cloth masks, limiting the number of houses visited, and only eating factory-wrapped candy.
  • The Northeast Arkansas region has seen the highest growth rate of cases at 6.9%. The highest growth rate by age group is for those over 65, at 7.5%.
  • Asked about the increase in hospitalizations, the Governor said the state has more than adequate ICU beds. Regarding how Arkansas compares to other states, the Governor said Arkansas has been successful at keeping cases at a level to not overwhelm the state’s hospitals. He believes that with a reduction in new cases, he would anticipate hospitalizations decreasing.
  • Regarding utilizing CARES Act funds to stabilize the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, the Governor said that it was important to not raise taxes on businesses now. He said when he talks with Governors of other states, they are in a much more serious position with higher unemployment and a more depleted Trust Fund.
  • In response to a question about the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report, the Governor highlighted some positives such as increased testing and a lower positivity rate, despite Arkansas remaining in the red zone. He does not anticipate placing additional restrictions on businesses, as he believes that for the most part, businesses are acting responsibility and following ADH guidelines.
  • Asked about Hurricane Delta potentially leading to evacuations from the Gulf Coast, the Governor said he is not concerned, as Louisiana has evacuation plans in place and can work with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Regarding the Coronavirus Task Force Report, Dr. Romero noted that the report said Arkansas was making progress in some key areas, but that progress advances are fragile.
  • Asked about whether the CDC issued guidance for trick-or-treating, Secretary Romero said he was not aware of any, but said most states provided guidance with a tiered level of activities, like what Arkansas has done.
  • In response to a question about a CDC report saying only 1/25 Arkansans had COVID antibodies in their system, Dr. Romero said that report would lead him to believe that not a significant number of Arkansans have become infected with COVID. Therefore, since COVID antibodies do not necessarily mean you are protected, Arkansans should remain vigilant.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education

  • Currently there are 22 instances of school modifications due to COVID. Last week’s count was down from 26 to 13.
  • Dr. Pfeffer announced a new partnership, called Engage Arkansas, between the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and Graduation Alliance. Engage Arkansas will provide support to students impacted by COVID who have become disengaged. Engage Arkansas also will work with Education Renewal Zones (ERZ) and the Department of Human Services to provide wraparound services to students. The ERZ will identify students, families and districts that need support, locate support within communities, connect support to engage students and their families, and develop regional systematic support. Graduation Alliance will provide outreach counselors, academic coaching, technical support, and telehealth. ERZ’s will use local data to provide long-term support. ADE will host webinars with school districts, encouraging them to get involved. Dr. Pfeffer is excited for this opportunity and believes it will benefit all students.

 

 

10/5/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 392 confirmed cases since yesterday, October, 4, for a total of 83,698 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 25 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,732 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,186 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 76,204 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,848 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,299 confirmed and 148 probable. There are 524 hospitalized patients, with 93 on ventilators.

 

6,305 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 38,625 performed in October. 845 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 3,075 performed in October.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/2/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 778 confirmed cases since yesterday, October 1, for a total of 82,309 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 180 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,470 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,583 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 74,473 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,577 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,245 confirmed and 146 probable. There are 475 hospitalized patients, with 89 on ventilators.

 

12,316 PCR tests were performed yesterday. 757 antigen tests were performed yesterday.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

10/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 921 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 30, for a total of 81,531 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 203 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,290 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,522 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 73,734 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,452 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,238 confirmed and 146 probable. There are 485 hospitalized patients, with 92 on ventilators.

 

There were 11,244 PCR tests performed yesterday with 279,780 performed in September. 1,154 antigen tests were performed yesterday and 23,806 antigen tests were performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 607 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 29, for a total of 80,610 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 335 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 3,087 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,373 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 73,007 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,305 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,223 confirmed and 146 probable. There are 490 hospitalized patients, with 93 on ventilators.

 

There were 8,184 PCR tests performed yesterday with 265,224 performed in September. 1,405 antigen tests were performed yesterday and 22,619 antigen tests have been performed in September.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 482 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 28, for a total of 80,003 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 224 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,752 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,529 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 72,265 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,175 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,204 confirmed and 146 probable. There are 490 hospitalized patients, with 97 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,394 PCR tests performed yesterday with 256,542 performed in September. 1,002,538 PCR tests have been performed since March. 1,187 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 21,214 performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor reported that Atkins School Superintendent Jody Jenkins passed away from COVID. He stated that the lesson is that COVID can be anywhere and the goal is to make schools as safe as possible.
  • The Governor discussed the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report. Arkansas remains in the red zone for cases and yellow zone for test positivity, but both have remained stable. He does not believe a multiplier effect has occurred in Arkansas, as there has been a steady increase in cases, but they then go down.
  • The White House announced it purchased 150M Abbott rapid point of care tests. Arkansas will receive 900,000 of those tests, including 59,000 within the next 10 days. It will be beneficial for testing in schools, prisons, and nursing homes. The Governor and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will develop a plan for prioritizing and distributing the tests.
  • There are 717 active cases in K-12 schools, down from 748 last week. There are 490 active cases in higher education institutions, down from 701 last week.
  • The highest growth rate for the past week is in Arkansans over the age of 65 and in Northeast Arkansas, which has a 9.4% growth rate.
  • The Governor is hopeful that since the state is performing a significant number of tests and the positivity rate is decreasing, the number of positive cases will decrease.
  • The Governor has not heard of any schools or school districts being resistant to the testing strategy of prioritizing testing for K-12 students and school employees at ADH county offices.
  • In response to a question about the Teacher’s Union for the Little Rock School District (LRSD) requesting members not teach in-person unless certain conditions are met, the Governor stated that a high percentage of students in the Little Rock School District have chosen virtual learning, but in-person education is an important part of the equation. He understands teacher nervousness, but the Union’s proposal sets too high of a bar and would eliminate an important option for parents and students. He noted the Union’s proposal was to eliminate in-person education in the district until there is a positivity rate of 5% or a very low number of cases around the state. Further, the Governor believes schools are about as safe of an environment as you can find in Arkansas.
  • The Governor noted that UAMS’ projections regarding COVID will be released today. He believes they are unpredictable and not useful for setting policy, but it does show the public how serious the illness is and what can happen if ADH guidelines are not followed.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero received a call from a concerned citizen asking him to remind Arkansans to wear their masks correctly.
  • Dr. Romero said that while the positivity rate continues to decrease, it takes time for cases to significantly decrease.
  • ADH has 11 school strike teams available if there are outbreaks at schools, but there have not been any outbreaks necessitating the strike teams yet.

Johnny Key:Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • 36 schools currently have modified on-site learning due to positive COVID cases. 93 have had modifications and resumed their original plan. 26 modifications occurred last week, which Secretary Key and Dr. Romero theorize had to do with Labor Day weekend activities.
  • Secretary Key noted that the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) continues to work to find a balance for virtual and blended learning, to relieve stress on teachers.
  • Regarding cancellations of football games, Secretary Key said that is the response ADE looks for when issues arise. He believes schools are doing an excellent job responding to COVID.
  • Regarding the LRSD’s Teacher Union demands, Secretary Key believes their plan leaves parents and students out. He said ADE has been very flexible and accommodated teachers who need assistance. ADE works with schools as much as possible to mitigate the risk associated with COVID.
  • The October 1 deadline for schools to report student enrollment has nothing to do with the CARES Act and is not because of COVID. It is to set the state funding level for the 2021-22 school year. Secretary Key did say that it has been determined that there are fewer kindergarten students than ADE anticipated and there has been an increase in homeschooling. After October 1, ADE will work with schools to determine the location of students who have not been attending school.

 

 

9/28/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 786 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 27, for a total of 79,521 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 21 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,528 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,824 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 71,509 confirmed recoveries. There have been 2,064 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,183 confirmed and 146 probable. There are 496 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,056 PCR tests performed yesterday with 248,060 performed in September. 19,993 antigen tests have been performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/25/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 796 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 24, for a total of 77,472 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 101 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,474 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,830 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 69,521 confirmed recoveries. There have been 1,905 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,116 confirmed and 150 probable. There are 484 hospitalized patients, with 95 on ventilators.

 

There were 9,908 PCR tests performed yesterday with 190,354 performed in September. 1,810 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 18,616 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 1, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/24/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 1,030 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 23, for a total of 76,676 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 56 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,373 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,672 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 68,902 confirmed recoveries. There have been 1,835 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,097 confirmed and 149 probable. There are 457 hospitalized patients, with 97 on ventilators.

 

There were 8,405 PCR tests performed yesterday with 179,863 performed in September. 1,148 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 16,806 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/23/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 874 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 22, for a total of 75,646 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 108 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,317 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,383 confirmed active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 68,178 confirmed recoveries. There have been 1,774 probable recoveries. Total deaths—1,080 confirmed and 149 probable. There are 468 hospitalized patients, with 90 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,460 PCR tests performed yesterday with 171,061 performed in September. 1,732 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 15,658 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/22/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 486 additional cases since yesterday, September 21, for a total of 74,772 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 131 probable cases since yesterday for a total of 2,209 probable cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,188 active cases and there have been 67,519 recoveries. Total deaths—1,060. There are 459 hospitalized patients, with 88 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,810 PCR tests performed yesterday with 163,704 performed in September. The goal for September is 190,000 PCR tests. 651 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 112 positive results. There have been 13,863 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor showed a slide with strategies for combatting COVID during the winter months. The strategies include conducting one million COVID tests by October 20 (there have been 897,000 completed so far); increasing the consistency of contact tracing; increased flu shot participation; leading by example; and, not growing weary.
  • Asked about a New York Times article stating Arkansas was second to Texas in positive K-12 cases, the Governor said he was unfamiliar with the article. He said Arkansas schools have experienced a good start and he is not concerned with Arkansas’s numbers. He said the challenge has been quarantines due to close contacts with a positive case.
  • The state continues to improve the consistency of its contact tracing. He said the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and its contractors have added contact tracers and increased training to add further quality assurance. One example was contact tracers calling five times over five days versus calling five times in a row on one day.
  • In response to a question about the United States Supreme Court vacancy, the Governor said he is excited to hear who the nominee will be. He said that there is a constitutional responsibility for a nomination to be presented and voted on. He would like the Senate to move expeditiously but does not think a vote should necessarily be tied to a presidential election. He believes he has consistently held this position, as it is important for there to be nine justices on the Supreme Court to make vital decisions.
  • Regarding the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report saying Arkansas ranked fourth in the nation in new cases, the Governor said that was bad news. However, the report highlighted good news, such as a reduction in Arkansas’s positivity rate and a 60% increase in testing. As far as strengthening compliance with mitigation efforts mentioned in the report, he said ADH’s approval of local events is tied to the plan to execute on how potential cases will be prevented. Also, the Governor said that since June 29, there have been 2,067 inspections performed with 90% in compliance with ADH directives. 173 businesses have received a verbal warning or citation.
  • In response to letters from children asking him not to cancel Halloween, the Governor does not plan on cancelling Halloween. He said that it is possible to trick-or-treat and celebrate Halloween while complying with ADH directives.
  • Asked about updated CDC guidance on how COVID is spread, and whether that could discourage Arkansans not to wear a mask, the Governor said he and his highly qualified team have been consistent: wear a mask.

Stephanie Williams: Chief of Staff of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Ms. Williams showed a slide with a breakdown of the timing of ADH’s contact tracing efforts. ADH has a turnaround time of three days, nine hours, and 23 minutes from when the sample is collected, tested and a positive result is reported back to ADH. ADH has a turnaround time of three days, 17 hours, and 49 minutes from when a case is assigned to a nurse and a nurse completes the investigation. Lastly, ADH has a turnaround time of 23 hours and 10 minutes from when a case is assigned to a contact tracer and the tracer completes their activities.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Dillaha strongly encouraged Arkansans to get a flu shot, saying it was an effective way of preventing hospitalizations during a time when ample hospital space is needed due to COVID.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key said 106 schools have modified operations due to COVID, with 83 moving back to normal operations. 22 schools currently have blended or virtual learning due to COVID, which can range from a classroom, grade level, or up to whole school district.  After almost five weeks of school, school districts are reviewing their data and practices to see where plans can be improved.
  • Asked about a substitute teacher capacity issue, Secretary Key said that it is an ongoing challenge, but a local issue.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • Regarding the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, the state is paid into the second week and approved by FEMA for three weeks. So far, $47 million has been paid out. Those on regular unemployment insurance have until Friday to certify that they are unemployed due to COVID.
  • There are 37,000 Arkansans on traditional unemployment assistance and 42,000 receiving pandemic unemployment assistance, the lowest it has been since late April-early May.

Solomon Graves: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections

  • There are 379 active cases in correctional facilities, down from 1,001 at the end of July. 182 inmates have been hospitalized and 39 have died. The state has resumed inmate intake, which had been suspended since June. Currently, 48 inmate cohorts are brought in together and quarantined for 14 days. Before they enter the general population, inmates are tested three times.

Dr. Austin Porter: Deputy Chief Science Officer at Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about five non-COVID deaths, Dr. Porter said they are deaths associated with something other than COVID, where the deceased had tested positive for COVID.

 

 

9/21/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 596 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 20, for a total of 74,286 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 6,299 active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 66,934 recoveries. Total deaths—1,197. There are 447 hospitalized patients, with 97 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,657 PCR tests performed yesterday with 156,284 performed in September. 253 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 20 positive cases. There have been 13,212 antigen tests performed in September, meeting the monthly goal.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/18/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 724 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 17, for a total of 72,338 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,767 active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 65,542 recoveries. Total deaths—1,025. There are 381 hospitalized patients, with 77 on ventilators.

 

There were 9,577 PCR tests performed yesterday with 129,035 performed in September. 2,201 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 411 positive cases. There have been 11,549 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

9/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 883 confirmed cases since yesterday, September 16, for a total of 71,614 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,726 active cases of COVID in Arkansas and there have been 64,145 recoveries. Total deaths—1,018. There are 389 hospitalized patients, with 72 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,910 PCR tests performed yesterday with 118,866 performed in September. 1,746 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 223 positive cases. There have been 9,348 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 606 additional cases since yesterday, September 15, for a total of 70,731 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There were 95 probable cases associated with positive antigen tests. There are 5,572 active cases and there have been 64,145 recoveries. Total deaths—1,010. There are 387 hospitalized patients, with 65 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,360 PCR tests performed yesterday with 109,168 performed in September. The goal for September is 190,000 PCR tests. 529 antigen tests were performed yesterday. There have been 7,417 antigen tests performed in September. The goal for September is 10,000 antigen tests.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor was in Batesville, at the University of Arkansas Community College, for his COVID-19 update. He said he had committed to coming to Batesville some time ago and was sticking with the plan, despite having a daily press conference yesterday.
  • Regarding the release of the latest University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) COVID-19 model and report, the Governor said the modelling simultaneously shows the successes the state has experienced but is also a wakeup call for the seriousness of the disease. For instance, the UAMS model said there could be an additional 980 deaths. The report expressed concern for an expansion in cases at K-12 schools and colleges, but also highlighted the decrease in positivity rate. The report also increased the number of cases anticipated over the winter, demonstrating the need for additional mask-wearing and social distancing this fall.
  • The Governor mentioned the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report. Arkansas remains in the red zone for cases per capita, but the Task Force noted new cases in Arkansas are declining. Arkansas’s positivity rate is in the yellow zone.
  • Asked how the poultry industry in Independence County, where Batesville is located, compared with other areas of the state, the Governor said the local industry has responded well with a high priority on safety.
  • Regarding easing restrictions for festivals, the Governor said he will continue to take a cautious and conservative approach. He mentioned the Chuckwagon Festival in Clinton that submitted a plan to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) assuring they had proper controls in place to control the spread of COVID-19. He and the ADH will continue to evaluate all restrictions on a week-by-week basis.
  • Asked whether 400-700 daily COVID-19 cases were the new normal, the Governor said he hopes not because it is still too high of a number, but there has been a consistent pattern. It is encouraging that the spread of COVID-19 is not out of control, as cases have not increased on a regular basis.
  • In response to a question regarding whether he had a word of unity, the Governor highlighted how Batesville and Independence County had addressed their challenges for 200 years, pulling together and surviving. He believes the community is strong and has a bright future.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero said UAMS’ model is predictive, but the state can drive down cases, so the state does not have to play catch up later by imposing restrictions.
  • Dr. Romero said the majority of those contacted by contact tracers are responding now. ADH is seeing improvement with responses to contact tracers in the minority communities.

 

 

9/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 676 additional cases since yesterday, September 14, for a total of 70,125 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 1,232 probable cases associated with positive antigen tests. There have been 63,415 recoveries. Total deaths—1,003. There are 389 hospitalized patients, with 68 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,852 PCR tests performed yesterday with 102,808 performed in September. The goal for September is 190,000 PCR tests. 880 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 188 positive cases. There have been 6,888 antigen tests performed in September. The goal for September is 10,000 antigen tests.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today was the Governor’s first weekly press conference after 144 daily updates.
  • The Governor and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) are trying to determine if there is a pattern with the high number of cases on Friday and then cases decreasing.
  • The Governor announced ADH has received 12,000 antigen tests for the 200 point-of-care devices the state has previously received. This is enough for a two-month supply, with hopefully more tests arriving before the end of two months. The tests will be distributed across the state.
  • The Governor was disappointed to announce 139 probable deaths due to COVID-19, which would not be definitive deaths, as determined by the CDC. The Governor does not get a sense that deaths are accelerating. The CDC change is frustrating and throws off the daily numbers, but he wants to be transparent.
  • There were 479,000 K-12 public school students in 2019, with likely a similar number this year. There have been only 574 COVID-19 cases, less than a .002% positivity rate, so it has been a good start to the school year.
  • Asked what could be done to cut down on teachers and students quarantining due to being in close contact with a positive case, the Governor said he has discussed the matter with Dr. Romero, and they are restricted by CDC guidelines. Students and teachers are required to wear masks and stay six feet apart, but it can be difficult to social distance in every classroom. The Governor is cautious because he does not want an increase in cases.
  • The Governor believes college students, for the most part, are following ADH guidelines. The college environment is like K-12, in that there is a high level of compliance, but the difference is there is a lot of outside activity with college students, which can sometimes be reckless. Colleges have cracked down on the outside activities where many cases were originating. He believes both K-12 and higher education are having a very successful year.

Dr. Michael Cima: Chief Epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health

  • The CDC began reporting probable cases, now probable deaths. Probable deaths are defined as cases where there is a positive antigen test but not a positive PCR test before death, or in instances when someone’s death certificate shows COVID-19 as an underlying or contributing cause, but there has been no laboratory confirmation. Probable deaths will be shown on ADH’s dashboard, independent of definitive deaths. He does not know how far the probable deaths go back.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • 91 of yesterday’s cases in Washington County were primarily associated with the University of Arkansas. However, there are fewer active cases at the University of Arkansas, so it appears the cases are being brought under control.
  • Dr. Romero said ADH is not seeing significant transmission in K-12 schools.

Stephanie Williams: Chief of Staff of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Ms. Williams said the 12,000 testing kits allow for a statewide antigen testing program. So far, 37 ADH local health units have performed 670 antigen tests. The Arkansas Minority Health Commission will focus on South Arkansas while the New York Institute of Technology Osteopathic School in Jonesboro will focus on the Delta. 40-50 machines will be placed in the community. Interested entities should check with ADH on their eligibility.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education

  • Dr. Pfeffer said there have been 39 modifications of on-site instruction due to COVID-19. 22 are ongoing, with eight added this week. The modifications are unique to each school district. For instance, Pocahontas High School shifted to virtual learning for two days for cleaning. A Little Rock School District second grade class is going virtual for two weeks. One school district is pivoting to virtual because of many quarantined staff, but their plan is to resume in-person education next week.

 

 

9/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

NOTE: On September 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he will no longer hold daily COVID-19 briefings, but will hold briefings on a weekly or “as needed” basis. inVeritas will continue to provide detailed updates as briefings are held. On a daily basis, we will continue to provide our charts with available data, as provided by the Arkansas Department of Health.

 

There have been 399 additional cases since yesterday, September 13, for a total of 69,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,719 active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 62,740 recoveries. Total deaths—986. There are 378 hospitalized patients, with 76 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,225 PCR tests performed yesterday with 93,491 performed in September. 607 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 21 positive cases. There have been 5,455 antigen tests performed in September.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 40,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

 

9/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,107 additional cases since yesterday, September 10, for a total of 67,911 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,713 active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 61,245 recoveries. Total deaths—953. There are 392 hospitalized patients, with 76 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,801 PCR tests performed yesterday with 69,733 performed in September. 459 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 78 positive cases. There have been 4,972 antigen tests performed in total.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor was in Mena, at the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain, for his daily press conference.
  • The Governor noted that today was the 19th anniversary of 9/11.
  • The Governor said he met with school leaders in Mena and was surprised and happy to hear them say this year was the best start to a school year they have experienced.
  • The 1,107 cases were a record number of new cases for a 24-hour period, but 225 of those cases were from one lab, which reported that 1/3 of those 225 cases were from last week. The Governor said unfortunately he somewhat expects spikes in new cases when there are a number of days with low cases, like last Friday. Whether today’s increase was caused by Labor Day activities, the Governor said it was a possibility but too early to say for sure.
  • The new record in cases is not necessarily a cause for alarm, but the Governor and Dr. Romero consider every tool and make data-driven decisions on what steps to take to combat COVID-19. Options include additional contact tracing or concentrated testing, depending on what the data demonstrates. He does not want to impose broad restrictions if not necessary based on the data. The Governor said that the college data is sometimes delayed, but he and Dr. Romero continue to evaluate the information they receive. From what they see, universities and higher education institutions continue to take the right actions and he is confident it will make a difference in reducing cases on college campuses.
  • Regarding fewer individuals on ventilators, the Governor said that the increase in cases among younger individuals, who are generally healthier, and better treatment options could explain the decrease.
  • The Governor said restaurants in Arkansas are working very hard to comply with ADH guidelines to keep their patrons and employees safe. In Arkansas only 4% of those infected with COVID-19 report having gone to a restaurant within 14 days versus 13% to retail stores.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • 13% of yesterday’s cases came from colleges and universities, which was a significant contributor, but that is a lower percentage than previous days. College data is not real time so it will take longer to determine if the situation is really improving.
  • There are 10 counties with over 20 cases.
  • Regarding fewer individuals on ventilators, Dr. Romero said it could be younger, healthier individuals being infected versus older and sicker individuals or better therapeutics for treatment like corticosteroids. Dr. Romero did say that a Harvard study stated that young COVID-19 patients still have a 20% chance of hospitalization and 10% of being on a ventilator, so they are still at risk.

 

 

9/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 398 additional cases since yesterday, September 9, for a total of 66,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,196 active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and there have been 60,668 recoveries. Total deaths—940. There are 392 hospitalized patients, with 79 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,900 PCR tests performed yesterday with 61,932 performed in September. There is a cumulative 8.3% positivity rate. 430 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 70 positive cases. There have been 4,513 antigen tests performed in total.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that tomorrow’s daily press conference, which will be in Mena, will be his last daily press conference. Today was his 143rd daily COVID-19 press conference. He will begin having press conferences weekly or as needed. He has been glad to utilize the press conferences as a communication tool, to provide the public with information to address the concerns of the pandemic. The Governor did stress that the state remained in an emergency and that he and Dr. Romero will continue to meet daily.
  • The Governor highlighted that today is National Suicide Prevention Day. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, suicides and mental health issues are up nationally.
  • There were only 37 cases in Washington County yesterday, so the Governor was hopeful cases are decreasing at the University of Arkansas.
  • The Governor stressed that active cases were close to their lowest level since June.
  • The Governor stated that he is encouraged by the lowered number of cases and hospitalizations and attributes it to Arkansans following the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines. He believes that contact tracing has proven to be very successful and provided good results.
  • Regarding the Senate’s stimulus package which failed, the Governor said he was always skeptical anything would be passed before the November election. He believes local governments will feel the biggest impact, as the state’s budget is in good shape.  The Governor believes Congress must act urgently to extend the time that the CARES Act funds can be spent, noting that with high speed broadband, it is difficult to spend the funds by the end of the year. Also, the funds will be needed to prepare an immunization infrastructure. The state also needs more flexibility on how existing funds can be spent.
  • Asked about Bob Woodward’s book, the Governor said he is not surprised President Trump tried to encourage the economy and minimize the impact from COVID-19. The Governor does feel that the public was well-informed, including information provided by Dr. Fauci, and the facts were well-known. The Governor said the role of leaders is to provide honest information to the public, while not creating a panic. There was a great deal of information not supported by the data at the time that had to be balanced with not creating a panic.
  • Asked about whether the President or Vice-President ever asked him to minimize the impact of COVID-19, the Governor said no. He said the President, Vice-President, and federal public health experts have always presented information in a factual manner. The Governor said his only frustrations have been with federal messaging at times and with the federal government’s ability to provide ample testing supplies.
  • Regarding school district information about COVID-19 cases, the Governor said if it is brought to the attention of the ADH or Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) that the information is not be transparently provided, it will be addressed. He has reviewed school district cases and believes it is sufficiently descriptive to provide the public with information on what is occurring at the school district level.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero provided the suicide prevention hotline number for Arkansas, which is available 24/7, and includes veteran-specific professionals. The number is 1-800-273-8255.
  • ADH has an internal group focused on education coordinating with school districts that meets daily. He has not seen a decrease in transmission of information from school districts or a lag by them in providing information.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education

  • All school districts have submitted a district support plan as part of ADE’s Ready for Learning initiative.
  • Two additional schools have modified their instruction due to COVID-19 cases. A third-grade class in Fordyce will operate virtually through the end of the week. Tuckerman High School will have remote classes through September 21.
  • Regarding information on the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement website, Dr. Pfeffer said their numbers could be lagging. Additionally, schools must balance student privacy and other factors with providing the public as much information as possible.

Stephanie Williams: Chief of Staff of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about contact tracing, Ms. Williams said ADH is consistently seeking quality improvement with its contact tracers. There are 600 contact tracers working currently and their turnaround time on notifying contacts continues to shrink. While previously there were issues with not having personal information for contacts, that has improved. Now, the number of individuals for which contact tracers lack information has decreased from approximately 25% to less than 20%.

 

 

9/9/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 385 additional cases since yesterday, September 8, for a total of 66,406 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 59,920 recoveries. Total deaths—928. There are 411 hospitalized patients, with 82 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,208 PCR tests performed yesterday. 699 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 114 positive cases. There have been 4,083 antigen tests performed in total.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) entered a partnership with Baptist Health to increase testing capacity by 20%. A testing machine will be purchased by ADH and utilize Baptist Health personnel to operate 24/7. Baptist Health will be able to use the testing machine 50% of the time, after ADH specimens are tested. This partnership was entered into not because there was a lack of demand at ADH facilities, but because ADH did not have enough space and personnel. Also, this partnership will allow for resources to be channeled to where there is a greater need. This will help Arkansas control its own destiny regarding testing.
  • The Governor displayed a slide showing southern states and their cases per 100,000 residents, with Arkansas right in the middle of the pack.
  • The Governor did not have a comment about a quote from Bob Woodward’s book, which alleges that President Trump stated that he downplayed COVID-19 in the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Asked if the positive cases were low because individuals could not be tested due to the Labor Day holiday, the Governor said he was encouraged because testing remained high over the weekend and positive cases remained low.
  • Asked whether he took the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report seriously, which has Arkansas sixth in the country in per-capita cases and thirteenth highest in test positivity rate, the Governor said he did. If there had been five successive days of 1,000 positive cases, he would have been very concerned and would look seriously at additional restrictions. The Governor noted that some of the Task Force’s suggestions have been implemented like expanded testing at college campuses and wastewater surveillance testing, which is paid for with CARES Act funds in partnership with the University of Arkansas.
  • The Governor has not seen a request by the Arkansas Democratic Party to have the Jefferson County Election Commissioner resign, noting that he largely defers to the counties in those matters.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero announced a new mandate for restaurants, with increased options for families and self-serve venues.
  • The partnership with Baptist Health will allow for the testing machine to be continuously running, acting as a pop-off valve when there are extra specimens. Before, ADH would contract with out-of-state labs, but now more specimens can be tested in-state. Also, nursing homes could contract with the ADH-Baptist Health partnership to have COVID-19 tests performed.
  • There is no plan currently for the state testing at nursing homes, but nursing homes have their own testing procedures in place.

Troy Wells: CEO of Baptist Health

  • Mr. Wells noted that Baptist Health has sent 400-1,000 COVID-19 tests daily to out-of-state commercial labs, so the ADH partnership will be beneficial for Baptist Health. Baptist Health has been able to receive reagents more easily because of the state partnership. He expects the testing machine to be up and running by October 1.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force (AERTF)

  • Chairman Walton said that the Economic Recovery Task Force continues to meet, trying to tackle the joint economic and health crises, noting you cannot solve one without the other. In a presentation to the Task Force, a University of Arkansas economist noted that the federal government stimulus programs greatly benefited the state’s economy, but when there was a large uptick in cases, there was a corresponding slowdown in other areas of the economy. Small businesses and the travel and leisure industries are particularly hurting.
  • The Task Force expects to have a progress report for the Governor tomorrow, September 10, which will be posted on www.arkansasready.com later this week.

Gina Windle: Chief of Staff, Arkansas Department of Education

  • There have been 40 students at Pea Ridge Middle School required to quarantine due to close contact with a positive COVID-19 case along with a quarantine due to close contact with a positive COVID-19 case for 100 kindergarten students in Harrison.

 

 

9/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 294 additional cases since yesterday, September 7, for a total of 66,021 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 59,260 recoveries. Total deaths—917. There are 409 hospitalized patients, with 84 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,154 PCR tests performed yesterday. 139 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 20 positive cases. There have been 3,384 antigen tests performed, with approximately a 14% positivity rate.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that through a joint multi-state purchasing agreement, led by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Arkansas will purchase 120,000 antigen tests. The state will be utilizing $4 million in CARES Act funds to purchase the tests, which will be available at Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) facilities, 10 colleges, and other select locations beginning in October.
  • The Governor was pleased the state was seeing declining cases along with increased testing.
  • In one of his slides, for the week of August 30-September 5, the age group with the highest growth in cases was the 18-24 age group, with over a 17% growth rate.
  • The Governor announced that the Arkansas Department of Commerce was preparing to issue $300 in pandemic assistance authorized by President Trump’s executive order. It will be sent out one week at a time, because the state is unclear of the funding stream, and the state is negotiating with the federal government on how to continue the program over a longer period.
  • The Governor also announced four additional grants worth $5 million to expand high-speed broadband in rural Arkansas.
  • Asked how Labor Day went regarding compliance with ADH directives, the Governor said he spent time across the state, and while there were exceptions, he was pleased with the efforts he saw. ADH was in Clinton at the Chuckwagon races and the Governor said the organizers did a good job of ensuring compliance. While he cannot predict the future, he hopes that the state does not see an increase in cases due to the holiday weekend.
  • Regarding the 1,000 cases at the University of Arkansas (UA), the Governor stated he and Dr. Romero had a call this morning with the UA’s Chancellor, and were satisfied with the aggressive actions taken and its plans moving forward. The Governor said students by and large have gotten the message to follow public health directives, there has been good university enforcement, and the City of Fayetteville is supportive, so he believes the UA is on the right track.
  • In response to whether he would consider additional statewide or regional restrictions, the Governor said he will look at additional restrictions if justified. Specifically, he said the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has implemented a regional approach to education in the state.
  • The Governor clarified that non-resident students who are tested in Arkansas, and test positive, are included in Arkansas’s statistics.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • There were three counties with over 20 cases, including Cross County, where there was an outbreak in a nursing home.
  • The 18-24 age group had a much higher growth rate than other groups, associated with colleges and universities.
  • Dr. Romero clarified that a PCR test is not performed simply because of a positive antigen test. The 736 probable COVID-19 cases associated with positive antigen tests are not lumped into the total number of positive cases.
  • Asked about a $170 cost for COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic individuals, Dr. Romero said he has not heard about that and there is no reason to charge extra depending on a lack of symptoms. At ADH facilities, tests are free for those that do not have insurance, and insurance is billed if individuals have insurance.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • Secretary Preston said Arkansas’s unemployment rate fell to 7.1%. Continued unemployment insurance (UI) claims have fallen for seven consecutive weeks. There are 83,000 unemployed Arkansans, with 41,000 receiving traditional UI and 42,000 receiving pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA).
  • Individuals are eligible for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) made available from President Trump’s executive order if they are receiving unemployment of $100 or more and self-certify that their unemployment is COVID-19 related. TANF funds are available for the approximately 7,400 Arkansans that receive $81-$99 in UI assistance weekly. PUA claimants are automatically eligible. The system is live for the week of August 1 on a week-by-week basis. The state must put up a 25% match, with the state’s traditional UI payments being the 25% match. The state built a new system for the LWA program.

 

 

9/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,094 additional cases since yesterday, September 3, for a total of 64,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There have been 57,547 recoveries. Total deaths—873. There are 401 hospitalized patients, with 86 on ventilators.

 

There were 11,254 PCR tests performed yesterday. 600 antigen tests were performed yesterday, with 111 positive cases, a 18.5% positivity rate.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference at Unity Health-White County Medical Center in Searcy.
  • The Governor noted yesterday had the highest number of positive cases in a 24-hour period, but also the highest number of tests in a 24-hour time period, as well. He said that it appeared that the commercial lab results seem to be reported in bunches, with over 8,000 results yesterday.
  • There were 215 positive cases yesterday in Washington County, home of the University of Arkansas.  82% of the positive cases were in the 18-24 age range. The Governor said he has spoken with both the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas and the Mayor of Fayetteville, where the University of Arkansas is located. The Chancellor has taken quick action to stem the increase in cases by utilizing the student code of conduct to ensure student compliance with health directives. The University of Arkansas is banning all gatherings, on or off campus, with 10 or more individuals. The Mayor of Fayetteville is devoting law enforcement resources to remind students and others of the need to comply with Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) directives. The Governor said it should not be a surprise there are cases at colleges, based on what has been seen around the country.
  • Asked what measures could be implemented if COVID-19 cases got significantly worse, the Governor said he believed the targeted approach had been very effective. He mentioned that Dr. Fauci had stated that you would not want to send mass amounts of college students to their home communities, as it could add to the spread of COVID-19. The Governor believes that the universities understand the challenge and have the ability to do contact tracing and implementing isolation to stop additional spread on college campuses. Many of the cases are associated with off-campus activities. The governor and Dr. Romero will be visiting with universities regarding what additional steps could be undertaken to prevent COVID-19 on college campuses.
  • Regarding college athletics, the Governor said it has been a good story, as there are no positive cases in the athletic community, which is a more controlled environment. The athletes know that their seasons are dependent upon the success in fighting COVID-19.
  • Asked about the 39 prisoner deaths from COVID-19, of which 35 were inmates with violent or sexual offenses, the Governor noted that the early release provisions were considered on a case-by-case basis. There are a number of factors considered by the Department of Corrections and Parole Board, including the nature of the crime committed, specifically whether the offenses were non-violent or sexual in nature, and how close the inmate is to their release date.
  • In response to a question from a reporter from Jonesboro, home of Arkansas State University, about receiving complaints about college students not complying with ADH directives at bars, the Governor said that complaints should be directed to ADH. The Governor said Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officers are doing inspections, as he sees a weekly report and there have been a number of citations issued.
  • Asked about crowds at protests, the Governor said it is important to recognize the freedom of protest, he just asks protestors to do so lawfully, to not destroy property, and be smart about following health guidance and directives. He also asked the whole state to be careful this holiday weekend.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero is somewhat concerned about what will happen after the three-day holiday weekend, as he understands that people want to enjoy their holiday, but he implored Arkansans to abide by health guidelines.
  • Asked whether hospitalizations would be expected to increase due to the recent increase in cases, Dr. Romero said he did not have a specific predictive model, but it could be anticipated that hospitalizations would increase when cases increase. Regarding whether the hospitalizations could be lower because of the age demographics of those infected, Dr. Romero said there is no guarantee because there have been hospitalizations and deaths in the 18-24 age range.

 

 

9/3/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 969 additional cases since yesterday, September 3, for a total of 63,081 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of the 969 new cases, 23 are in correctional facilities and 946 are within the community. There are 5,331 active cases. There are 425 hospitalized patients, with 91 on ventilators. Total deaths—861.

 

There were 7,827 tests performed yesterday.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson opened by discussing the lawsuit filed by Rep. Dan Sullivan and a small group of legislators challenging the Governor’s executive authority. He believes this is not an attack on the Department of Health, but on the broad executive authority the Governor has acted under during the emergency. He defended his actions as executive branch functions based on authority granted by the General Assembly. He noted today’s case count shows the state is in a state of emergency.
  • Governor Hutchinson pointed out that at least seven of the legislators that have filed the suit were on the legislative committee that approved the rules that granted the Department of Health and the executive branch the authority to issue the directives in question.
  • The governor is delighted the majority of the legislature understands the way emergency powers work. He noted the legislature has the power to end the emergency, but this would mean the end of telemedicine, the liability protection for small businesses, the suspension of rules that made virtual education an option, and the rapid licensure of medical personnel, among many others.
  • Governor Hutchinson also pointed out the group behind the lawsuit is raising money, and he called on the group to disclose all that have donated to the filing of the lawsuit, in the interest of transparency.
  • Washington County accounted for 211 of the new cases. 81% of the new cases are between the ages of 18-24.
  • Governor Hutchinson agrees with Dr. Fauci’s assessment that Arkansas is at a high risk for a surge in cases. The Governor seconds this warning and cautions this weekend is a very critical time.
  • The state has received a letter from the CDC that a vaccine could be available as early as November 1. The state stands ready to help, facilitate, and expedite when they get additional information on the vaccine.
  • Asked if the CDC letter regarding the vaccine was linked to the election, Governor Hutchinson noted the letter came from Dr. Robert Redfield, and he has full confidence in his opinion. In terms of the vaccine’s timing, Governor Hutchinson believes the quicker the better.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • There are 250 new cases among the college age group, showing that universities are driving the case count forward.
  • Regarding the safety of the vaccine, Dr. Romero has been assured there will be no lessening in the stringency of the safety requirements.

Solomon Graves: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections

  • There are 432 positive cases within the state’s correctional facilities, with the largest clusters at Varner Unit in Lincoln County; Wrightsville Unit in Pulaski County; and the Benton Work Release Center in Saline County.
  • Beginning next Tuesday, the Ouachita River Correctional Unit in Malvern will resume intake, which has been suspended since June. As of this morning, there are 1,484 male inmates in county jails waiting to start the intake process.
  • The Department of Corrections has worked with Well Path LLC and the Department of Health to build a live interface that will electronically process lab results for the Department.
  • Starting in October, the Department of Corrections will implement a phased reopening of in-person visitation at state prisons and community correction centers. This reopening will be based on individual case counts, and will include COVID-19 symptom screenings, identification of high-risk visitors, reduced visitation numbers, and staggered dates and times.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Two school districts have made changes to their on-site instruction. Jacksonville Middle School is moving to virtual instruction due to the number of staff that must be quarantined. At Earle Elementary School, 50% of the staff has had to be quarantined, so they are moving to virtual instruction through September 17.
  • The Earle outbreak appears to be tied to off-campus social activity.

 

 

9/2/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 615 additional cases since yesterday, September 1, for a total of 62,112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,010 active cases. There are 435 hospitalized patients, with 90 on ventilators. Total deaths—841.

 

There were 4,773 tests performed yesterday. There were 590 antigen tests performed yesterday.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the State. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson was pleased with the monthly revenue report, noting the very encouraging numbers showed consumer confidence. The state will continue to keep a tight rein on the budget despite the good news to provide a cushion as we navigate these uncertain times.
  • Governor Hutchinson discussed the CDC’s moratorium on evictions based upon nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19, which will be effective September 4, 2020. This broad-based order does not relieve tenants of their duty to pay rent but will hopefully prevent homelessness and individuals moving into congregate settings.
  • The overall cumulative positivity rate for antigen testing is 15.7% (2,050 positives out of 13,098 tests). Arkansas plans to report antigen tests and positive results to the CDC.
  • Asked if colleges should scale back operations due to the increase in cases, Governor Hutchinson thinks the higher education institutions are doing a very good job. More than 1,000 students have been tested, and these results should be coming in soon.
  • In terms of future coronavirus relief packages, Governor Hutchinson’s top priority would be greater flexibility in spending existing CARES Act funding and extending the deadline for spending funds. He would like to invest more in high-speed broadband for rural communities and vaccine distributions. The governor’s second priority is an extension of the increased FMAP (matching rate for Medicaid), which is at a higher rate right now due to COVID-19. He noted the Medicaid rolls are getting larger and the state needs more flexibility. A third priority would be additional funding for education, due to the increased expense for virtual instruction.
  • Asked about a new White House report showing that Arkansas ranks 11th in the country in terms of new cases and asked whether he would close bars, Governor Hutchinson said there are numerous recommendations to consider. The state ties such decision-making to a correlation between an activity and an increase in cases, and the state has not found such an increase with bars.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Washington County now leads the state in the total number of cases, surpassing Pulaski County.
  • Dr. Romero encouraged college students to help control the spread and to recognize the social responsibility they bear toward society.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health

  • All states follow a consistent reporting pattern set forth by the CDC, which defines a “confirmed case” through a positive PCR test. A “probable case” is defined in three ways: a positive antigen test, symptoms with a link to a known case, or COVID-19 listed on the death certificate.
  • In Arkansas, a probable case is treated in the same way as a PCR-confirmed case. The state does contract tracing for probable cases.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The Department of Education has opted-in to a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver so all students may receive meals free of charge. This waiver will run through December 31, and will allow school districts to serve meals to all students at no costs and outside of normally required group settings and mealtimes.
  • Secretary Key reinforced that many families that would not normally qualify for free meals are still having a tough time. This waiver will also help eliminate administrative burden on school staff.
  • Parents must work with school districts to complete and submit applications.

 

 

9/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 273 additional cases since yesterday, August 31, for a total of 61,497 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,036 active cases. There are 423 hospitalized patients, with 85 on ventilators. Total deaths—814.

 

There were 3,530 tests performed yesterday for a total of 186,379 tests for the month of August.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson opened the press conference by reminding everyone to register for the Census. Bishop Robert Rudolph with the Arkansas Complete Count Committee and Gina Gomez with El Centro Hispano discussed the importance of participating in the Census. The deadline to register is September 30.
  • While we did not meet last month’s goal of 190,000 tests, we still had strong testing numbers. In August, 6.2% of the state’s population was tested. The goal for testing in September is 180,000 PCR tests and 10,000 antigen tests.
  • 94.5% of COVID-19 deaths in Arkansas had other contributing factors, such as hypertensive disease, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and cerebrovascular disease. COVID-19 was the primary cause of 5.5% deaths. The state has a 78.9% recovery rate for those that go into the hospital.
  • Asked about the potential lawsuit against the Department of Health, Governor Hutchinson believes the Department of Health is acting within its authority and with great reservation in terms of restrictions. The governor is trying to keep Arkansas moving, sports continuing, and schools open. Governor Hutchinson believes there is a minority in the legislature behind the lawsuit, and he does not think it is wise to have courts consider the issue.
  • Asked why antigen test results are not being reported, Governor Hutchinson clarified the state has been transparent and has shared data as available. He has asked for the antigen testing data to be reported on a more regular basis in September.
  • Asked if he would look more closely at restrictions suggested by the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report (i.e. closing bars), Governor Hutchinson said he will consider additional options if cases reach an uncontrollable level.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Testing events are being held this week at the University of Arkansas and the University of the Ozarks. Events are also being held in Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, and Paragould. Department of Health staff on site have reported a strong response to today’s testing event at the University of Arkansas.
  • 38 rapid point of care testing machines have been distributed across the state, including the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University.
  • There is a delay in when university testing is being reported to the state, which explains why yesterday’s report of 151 cases at the University of Arkansas is not reflected in today’s count for Washington County cases. University testing data will be included in future reports and will be relayed to the public as received.
  • Asked for clarification on the comorbidity data, Dr. Romero noted the virus does kill healthy individuals. If you are perfectly healthy with no comorbidities, you are still at higher risk for death than if you did not become infected.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Director of the Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • Dr. Pfeffer provided an update on schools that have modified on-site operations. Mountain View School District has quarantined a grade-level of students; Rogers School District has a Kindergarten classroom that has been quarantined; and a high school in the Ft. Smith School District is looking to move classes off-site. Cross County Schools returned today.

 

 

8/31/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 368 additional cases since yesterday, August 30, for a total of 61,224 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,466 active cases. There are 420 hospitalized patients, with 87 on ventilators. Total deaths—797.

 

There were 4,542 tests performed yesterday for a total of 181,950 tests this month.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson recognized Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane and noted today is International Opioid Awareness Day. Governor Hutchinson announced the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the state a $21 million grant to prevent opioid and stimulant abuse in Arkansas. The money will be used for education, treatment, and recovery. Arkansas is one of four states that has had a decline in opioid-related deaths.
  • In response to reports that a group of lawmakers will pursue legal action against the Department of Health to end the state of emergency, Governor Hutchinson expressed confidence in Dr. Romero and the Department of Health team and the steps they have taken under the authority granted to them. He added that having to take public health guidelines through the legislative process would cause delay.
  • Governor Hutchinson was asked about this morning’s legislative hearing, during which some lawmakers expressed concern over wearing masks and called for further reopening, Governor Hutchinson noted conflicting public messages can create challenges. There has been a consensus among the medical community and public officials that wearing a mask is a tool to use to prevent having to close businesses and adding additional restrictions.
  • Governor Hutchinson noted that 11,300 tests have been added into the system after it was discovered that a commercial lab was not reporting all negative tests to the Department of Health. The tests originated in Benton and Washington Counties, and the state has resolved the issue with the lab.
  • When asked for insight on why the state has fallen short of its testing goal for two straight months, Governor Hutchinson said he was encouraged to see commercial testing labs are accelerating production and reducing turnaround time.
  • When asked whether the increase in Washington County cases was related to the University of Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson noted the universities have a great deal of discretion in how to maintain safety on campus. He said they have a good plan in place and hopes they can continue in-person classes, but that requires self-discipline by students. He expressed a high expectation level for the students to do the right thing.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • To address the concern of cases rising on campuses, the Department is taking a proactive stance to identify these cases and has deployed point of care tests across the state.
  • When asked about a new CDC study that showed 94% of COVID-19 deaths had an underlying condition, Dr. Romero confirmed the vast majority of patients that have died in Arkansas have had comorbid conditions.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key announced that two school districts have modified their operations. Cross County School District’s high school and Searcy County School District (Marshall High School) have moved to virtual instruction. This decision was made because of loss of staffing due to quarantine, not a high level of cases. These are both good examples of the Ready for Learning plan being implemented.
  • The state is looking into the facts of the school bus driver in the Russellville area who died of COVID-19 and whether students may have had contact. It is believed the infection was contracted through the community, not at school. Secretary Key reinforced that the screening of school personnel is left up to the school district. There is no testing requirement for school drivers, though there is a mask requirement.

 

 

8/28/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 838 additional cases since yesterday, August 27, for a total of 59,583 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of the 838 new cases, 181 are in correctional facilities. There are 5,496 active cases, with 225 in nursing homes, 668 in correctional facilities, and 4,603 in the community. There are 407 hospitalized patients, with 95 on ventilators. Total deaths—756.

 

There were 6,360 tests performed yesterday for a total of 162,562 tests this month.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson opened the press conference by acknowledging A.J. Gary, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management director, and his team’s work in responding to yesterday’s storm. Governor Hutchinson was thankful to report no injuries or deaths from the tropical storm. There are 32,000 Arkansans without power, down from a high of 52,000. Governor Hutchinson thanked all the electric and utility teams working to restore power.
  • Governor Hutchinson thanked all the students, athletes, teachers, and staff who have done a remarkable job of getting through the first week of school. He warned that we must be responsible and follow the same social distancing guidelines on the weekend. Our behavior on the weekend impacts us next week and the week beyond in terms of schools, workplace, and families.
  • Governor Hutchinson recognized Jeff Prail with the Arkansas Association of the Deaf, who shared mask-wearing is creating challenges for the deaf community. The Department of Corrections is working to create masks with clear plastic coverings that will allow the deaf community to communicate more effectively.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero emphasized the need to isolate from the moment you take a test until you have the results. The state has identified cases spread in schools due to students coming on campus while test results are pending.
  • Dr. Romero noted we are beginning to see outbreaks on some campuses. They are increasing testing capacity and holding testing events next week at University of Arkansas – Fayetteville and University of Ozarks due to increased cases. The virus will spread from the campus to the community if not brought under control.
  • Dr. Romero encouraged university and college students to maintain appropriate social distancing, wear masks, and use hand sanitizer even on the weekends.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key thanked everyone involved for a successful first week of the 2020-2021 school year despite the bad weather and COVID.
  • Secretary Key reiterated the need to follow quarantine guidelines until you have received test results, noting some of the close contacts cases this week could have been avoided had those who had been tested stayed home until they received their results.
  • He shared the mask for the deaf community as a win for government transformation. Leaders identified the need and worked with the Department of Corrections to make this happen for students and teachers at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.

 

 

8/27/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 722 additional cases since yesterday, August 26, for a total of 58,745 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,341 active cases. There are 433 hospitalized patients, with 99 on ventilators. There have been 52,665 recoveries. Total deaths—739.

 

There were 6,682 PCR tests performed yesterday.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson opened with an update on the tropical storm that has entered south Arkansas. As of the press conference, there were 22,000 Arkansans without power and trees are down in Camden. Governor Hutchinson encouraged everyone to pay attention to the weather as we are going to have strong winds and flash flooding.
  • Governor Hutchinson has spoken with President Trump, who expressed concern and asked how he could be helpful. Governor Hutchinson thanked the President for FEMA being engaged and ready.
  • The focus of today’s press conference was school district data. There are 222 active cases in public schools and 41 active cases at the state’s colleges and universities.
  • Asked if the 222 active cases were a surprise, Governor Hutchinson thought it was a modest number in light of the state’s 480,000 students. Governor Hutchinson is most interested in this data as a measurement starting point.
  • When asked about the intent behind the school data, Governor Hutchinson said that from a state standpoint, it is helpful to look at community spread and how to best respond to staff needs.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero noted the number of hospitalized patients is as low as it was six weeks ago.
  • Eight counties have 20 or more active cases. These include Pulaski, Benton, Sebastian, Pope, Jefferson, White, Saline, and Garland Counties. The increase in White County is attributed to 19 cases at a nursing home facility. Governor Hutchinson is concerned with how often Pulaski County is in the top counties.
  • Dr. Romero addressed the CDC’s modified testing recommendations and stressed the importance of continuing to be tested. In response to a question regarding whether the conflicting testing guidance will create confusion, Governor Hutchinson acknowledged this could lead to some confusion.
  • In response to a question, the Department of Health clarified that all the deaths the state has reported have been PCR-confirmed. None of the state’s reported deaths have been confirmed with antigen testing alone.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The school district data will be updated twice a week (on Mondays and Thursdays). The data will include active and cumulative cases for public schools, many of the private schools, and higher education institutions. For privacy purposes, districts with less than five active cases will not be listed. The totals will include all types of learning (in person, virtual, and hybrid).
  • There are 13 districts with 50 cases or more, down six from last week.
  • Some school districts are choosing to post data on their own websites, but the state is not making it a requirement.
  • Secretary Key will be monitoring the number of close contacts as a measure of how school districts are responding.

 

 

8/26/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 649 additional cases since yesterday, August 25, for a total of 58,023 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,390 active cases, with 258 from nursing homes, 727 from correctional facilities, and 4,405 from the community. Total deaths—732. There are 435 hospitalized patients, with 108 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,372 PCR tests performed yesterday. 148,620 tests have been performed in August. The cumulative positivity rate is 8.4%, with daily rates below 10% for the past two weeks.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the State. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15th, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. In addition, the ADH has added over 31,000 tests. ADH will release corrected results at some point in the future. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases and tests from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor mentioned that Hurricane Laura may impact Arkansas, with sustained high winds downing power lines and heavy rains causing flooding. He declared an emergency and authorized $250,000 to be used preparing for the storm. The Governor has communicated with the Governor of Louisiana and has offered his support. Since Hurricane Laura could enter Arkansas as a tropical storm, all Arkansas residents should be alert to the potential for dangerous conditions.
  • The Governor reported that there are zero COVID-19 cases within the Cummins and Ouachita River correctional facilities, which have had previous outbreaks.
  • The Governor announced that the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has received 70,000 splash guard face shields, enough for every school employee in Arkansas. These can be worn over face masks.
  • The Governor anticipates providing additional details tomorrow on reporting of school district level COVID-19 statistics.
  • The Governor recognizes that inmates need visitation, but due to the level of risk with COVID-19 exposure, he does not anticipate allowing in-person visitation, like what was implemented with nursing homes, soon.
  • FEMA has approved Arkansas’s application for $300 in unemployment benefits authorized by the President’s executive order, and the legislature has allocated the funding. The Governor said potential recipients should not expect to receive the assistance in the next two weeks as the IT system is very old and antiquated, requiring manual changes to allow for processing. Also, the state is awaiting additional guidance from the federal government. The funds are not unlimited, and they are dependent upon demand from other states, as well. The Governor’s understanding is the funds are of limited time duration to act as a bridge until Congress acts.
  • Regarding the Salt Bowl football game between Bryant High School and Benton High School, being played this weekend, the event has submitted a plan that has been reviewed and approved by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). The state will learn from the event and will adjust requirements for future games if necessary. The game will be played in a large stadium, so he does not anticipate that social distancing should be an issue. The Governor will be monitoring the situation as he will be attending the game.
  • Asked about implementing emergency shelters due to Hurricane Laura, the Governor said he is not aware of any plans at this time, but the state will keep COVID-19 in mind if the need arises and coordinate with Louisiana to be a good neighbor if they need assistance.
  • Regarding new CDC guidelines stating that testing was no longer recommended for those that are asymptomatic but previously in close contact with someone infected, the Governor said the state believes that if you have been exposed and asymptomatic then you should still be tested.

A.J. Gary: Director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM)

  • The state has been in constant contact with FEMA who has indicated that an incident team can arrive in Arkansas if needed. ADEM has worked with local emergency management departments to prepare for the storm. Search and rescue teams are available, if the winds are not too extreme to prevent the teams from deploying.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Director of the Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • Dr. Pfeffer said ADE continues to see evidence of a positive start to the school year. The Department has appointed members of ADE leadership to serve as a point of contact for each school superintendent.  The point of contact will be available 24/7 to respond to questions.
  • Regarding the ADE resource call center, it has been available for 18 days and ADE has 23 subject matter experts staffing the call center.
  • ADE has sent PPE to 63 school districts, with the contents specific to what the school district needs. ADE will continue to stock its strategic reserve.
  • As far as modifying on-site learning, it has only been required by a few school districts. One district, Woodlawn, successfully began on-site education today after several teachers had previously tested positive. Another, KIPP, will begin on-site learning next week, after the period of quarantine for school staff ends.

 

 

8/25/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 480 additional cases since yesterday, August 24, for a total of 57,374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,312 active cases. Total deaths—711. There are 442 hospitalized patients, with 108 on ventilators.

 

There were 3,300 PCR tests performed yesterday. 143,752 tests have been performed in August. In addition, 3,610 antigen tests have been performed in August.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the 7-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference at ASU Three Rivers in Malvern.
  • The Governor noted that the Arkansas Legislature approved $100 million in CARES Act funds for the expansion of highspeed broadband through the Arkansas Rural Connect grant program. An additional $7 million in grant funds have been allocated for specific projects.
  • Regarding the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report which has included Arkansas as being in the red zone, the Governor said he received the most recent report which has Arkansas moving from the red zone to yellow zone, with a positivity rate below 10%. Arkansas remains in the red zone as far as new cases per 100,000 residents, which is more than 3,000 cases per 100,000 residents. Last week the state had 3,600 cases. The Governor hopes to move to the yellow zone soon. He mentioned the recommendations from the report include closing bars and further restricting restaurants.  The Governor does not believe it is necessary to take these actions as he has not seen a correlation between those locations and increased cases. Also, he does not want to restrict the economic activity unless there is a direct correlation between an activity and cases.
  • The Governor noted that testing is not where he would like it to be, but it is dependent upon public demand. The Governor showed a slide where Arkansas was ahead of most states in the region as far as testing per 100,000 residents.
  • The Governor mentioned being told about a child who received a COVID-19 test, did not wait for the results, which turned out to be positive, and six other students required isolation due to having close contact with the child.
  • Asked about Louisiana announcing they were approved for the $300 unemployment payments the President authorized by executive order, the Governor said Arkansas is waiting for federal approval of its application. The Governor noted that upon approval, it could still take some time to implement, as Arkansas will have to change its IT system, which always presents challenges.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked why the testing numbers have been low, Dr. Romero said it reflects a lack of testing demand. He is working on a plan with the Governor to increase testing to avoid a seesaw effect in the number of cases versus tests.

 

 

8/24/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 320 additional cases since yesterday, August 23, for a total of 56,894 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There were 309 cases in the community and 11 from correctional facilities. There are 5,509 active cases. There have been 50,689 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—696. There are 466 hospitalized patients, with 106 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,629 tests performed yesterday. 140,065 tests have been performed in August.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today was the first day of the school year and the Governor noted that he challenged everyone two weeks ago to reduce the positivity rate and cases before the school year. He highlighted that the daily average for cases has decreased the past several weeks.
  • The Governor stated that robust testing is occurring and that anyone that wants to be tested should be tested.
  • The Governor provided more details on contact tracing of cases from the 383 cases on August 10. Of the 383 cases, 314 were assigned and 69 could not be assigned due to missing contact information. 188 cases were investigated; however, 126 did not require an investigation due to the cases being in a congregate setting. It took an average of 1.63 days to complete an investigation. Of those 188 individuals, an additional 225 contacts were identified, for 413 total contacts.
  • Regarding the President’s announcement about convalescent plasma, the Governor noted that Arkansas has been utilizing convalescent plasma for treatment for some time.
  • Asked if there would be an end to the emergency declaration, the Governor noted that there are not many restrictions currently other than the 2/3 limitation on large gatherings and certain locations. He is not ready to think about lifting the existing restrictions and going to full capacity, as he knows there could be a spike in cases tomorrow. He knows everyone is ready to get back to a normal life and stop wearing masks. Mask wearing and social distancing will likely continue until there is a vaccine.
  • Asked if there would be a tipping point for closing a school, the Governor noted it would depend on what was occurring in the community and how the school was being impacted with staffing and resources.
  • Asked about a massive data correction, the Governor mentioned that a lab in Washington County was sending in positive results but not negative results, which should lead to a very large number of additional negative results.
  • The Governor believes hospitals will be in a good position if there were an outbreak in schools.
  • Asked if the state was still in the White House Coronavirus Task Force red zone, the Governor said he has not received this week’s report, which he generally receives late on Monday afternoons. Regarding posting the reports online like Oklahoma does, the Governor said he thought the White House made the reports available and the state could too, but likely would not post them online.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • There have been two data corrections, including the one previously announced on August 15. The most recent data correction issue will not add more positive cases, just negative cases. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is still waiting for more information, as there will be a significant number of new negative cases.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key said he has received positive feedback regarding the first day of the school year. He noted there is still work to be done, as he stated that Dr. Romero told him he drove by a school bus this morning and the bus driver was not wearing a mask. There have been no reports yet of issues with the WI-FI hotspots or lack of computer access. He does not have a percentage of students that do not have broadband access but continues to seek information on the subject.
  • Regarding some school districts that have closed due to a lack of teachers, Secretary Key mentioned that it has been school specific. He mentioned that Woodlawn had one positive case, but there were six close contacts in food services, which becomes a challenge for the whole school. At the KIPP Academy in the Delta, there was one positive case, but 26 close contacts, making it clear that they were not following the school’s COVID-19 protocols.
  • Secretary Key said the plan was to work to keep schools open unless there was a critical response and even then, the plan would be to limit the students and staff versus totally closing a school like was done in the spring.
  • Asked about the appropriate filtration systems in schools, Secretary Key said that the best system for preventing COVID-19 was a HEPA filtration system, which is not the typical filtration system for a school or commercial building. It is not something that can just be added on to an existing HVAC system.

Dr. Tina Ipe: Medical Director for the UAMS Blood Bank and Transfusion Division

  • Dr. Ipe mentioned that Arkansas has done a great job of providing units of blood to hospitalized COVID-19 patients. They hope to continue to provide convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patients to gather data on its effectiveness in treating hospitalized patients.

 

 

8/21/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 887 additional cases since yesterday, August 20, for a total of 55,652 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,854 active cases. There have been 49,135 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—663. There are 509 hospitalized patients, with 120 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,396 tests performed yesterday.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by noting that the July unemployment rate was down from 8.1% in June to 7.1%, which is 3% below the national average. That means 14,000 more people were working in July versus June.
  • Regarding why some days have higher cases than other days, the Governor said clusters of cases have developed from group gatherings. Asked if cases were not under control, the Governor said the community needs to do more and be disciplined. He believes the school district level data will be helpful.
  • The Governor announced that the state had completed 100% testing of inmates at correctional facilities. 14,650 inmates were tested, with 5,120 testing positive, roughly a 35% positivity rate. 4,728 staff were tested, with only 378 positive cases. There is not currently a plan to continue mass testing, but a new plan will be developed in the future. Also, there is no plan currently to allow for in-person visitation at correctional facilities.
  • Asked about some school districts having a lack of broadband access, the Governor noted that in-person education was the most equitable form of education, since it is not dependent on internet access.
  • Regarding seven deaths associated with one nursing home, the Governor said those cases were from Little River County.
  • In response to a question about hurricane season and evacuees coming to South Arkansas, the Governor said the state is monitoring the storms. He said it would not be preferable in this environment to have large numbers of travelers from states with a high number of cases. Instead, he hopes that areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, not in the way of the potential storms, could provide shelter. That said, the Governor does not expect to prevent travelers from other states entering Arkansas.
  • Asked about an early August White House Coronavirus Task Force report with Arkansas as a red zone for cases, the Governor said that there have been two subsequent reports. Also, Dr. Deborah Birx, with the Task Force, believed Arkansas will likely not be in the red zone soon, based on Arkansas’s decreasing positivity rate. The Governor told Dr. Birx that Arkansas was focused on enforcement versus monetary fines. The Governor did say that 19 school districts are at the highest risk level based on community spread.
  • The Governor said that he has seen great examples from school districts of the flexibility they have provided to teachers with high health risks, mentioning plexiglass shields and the opportunity to work remotely.
  • The Governor said he is not aware of any citations for individuals failing to comply with the mask-wearing directive from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
  • Asked what he would say to Arkansans who believe they could not quarantine without a positive case because of economic hardships, the Governor said the public health guidance is not arbitrary. Public health officials believe the guidelines are necessary because of the uniqueness of COVID-19. He understands it is a hardship, but the state and federal governments continue to try to provide economic assistance to those in need.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • With 22 deaths yesterday, 11 from nursing homes, Dr. Romero said measures to protect vulnerable populations can appear drastic, but they are important. 30-40% of COVID-19 deaths have come from congregate facilities.
  • Dr. Romero said that even though a student-athlete receives notification they can end quarantining, they still need to be cleared to play by their doctor.
  • Dr. Romero said with large family gatherings, public health directives should still be followed.

Solomon Graves: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections

  • Secretary Graves mentioned that in the past week the Department of Corrections tested 8,080 inmates, getting 6,699 results back. There have only been 293 positive cases, a 4.3% positivity rate.
  • Asked about social distancing in correctional facilities, Secretary Graves said the prison population has been reduced by 10%. This has been accomplished by slowing new commitments and early release authorizations for inmates. This Spring, there were 834 early releases and the Board of Corrections has recently authorized the release of 481 more inmates.
  • While the Department of Corrections is not allowing in-person visitation, they have made video and telephone calls as cheap as possible and allowed for inmates to have increased time with those forms of visitation.

Stephanie Williams: Chief of Staff of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Ms. Williams mentioned that the six-month extension for medical marijuana licenses expires on September 30. Licensees can receive their certification through a telemedicine visit.
  • Ms. Williams shared two new fraud alerts. One was associated with fraudulent actors posing as contact tracers, to obtain financial information. She reiterated that contact tracers would not ask for financial information. She noted that an individual could call 1-800-803-7847 to verify if someone is an actual ADH investigator or contact tracer. Additionally, someone has been posing as a health inspector, requesting $25 for a report stating the business follows ADH directives. Ms. Williams said ADH employees would not ask for payment for that information, and they should have identification.

 

 

8/20/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 549 additional cases since yesterday, August 19, for a total of 54,765 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 549 cases, 499 are from the community and 50 are from correctional facilities. There have been 48,558 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—641. There are 499 hospitalized patients, with 108 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,898 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 115,915. The state has met its antigen testing goal of 10,000 for the month.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson noted the trend line for new cases is flat, hospitalizations are flat, and active cases have been on the decline. He was pleased that the positivity rate is below 10%.
  • The focus of today’s press conference was the upcoming school year. The Governor advised that the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Department of Health, and the Department of Education have worked hard to increase the level of school district data available.
  • The Governor said that in order to keep schools safe, the state must know what is happening in the community. More data and better information will provide school districts with an increased level of options, depending on the level of risk in their community.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Eight Arkansas counties have 20 cases or more. These include Pulaski, Sebastian, Jefferson, Garland, Crawford, Craighead, Mississippi, and Pope Counties.
  • Dr. Romero noted continued testing is very important. A high level of testing is required for the granular data needed to benefit school districts.
  • Dr. Romero reinforced the idea that a negative test does not mean that you are not infected. While a positive test means you have COVID-19, a negative test could mean that the virus has not decided to make enough of itself to be detected. You can have a positive test up to 14 days out from exposure. Even if you have a negative test, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days if you have been exposed.
  • Discussing the critical role school nurses will play, and whether their early return to work will spread the virus, Secretary Romero noted that school nurses should not return to school until their quarantine is finished. However, given their role as an essential worker, an early return may be necessary if there is a critical shortage. As healthcare professionals, school nurses will have higher PPE standards, such as N95 masks.

Dr. Joe Thompson: CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

  • ACHI, together with the Department of Health and the Department of Education, have updated data on cumulative and active cases at both the community and school district levels.
  • They have added a tiered risk indicator for school districts. This is not a trigger system, rather a tool to help school districts make informed decisions.
  • 19 school districts have more than 50 cases per 10,000 individuals, and Secretary Key and Dr. Thompson have had calls with these school districts.
  • The goal is to have every school district in the green zone, and to stay as green as possible going forward.
  • Each week, a data point will be added to allow school districts, personnel, and parents to follow the trendline of the virus.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key advised that 2,000 screening kits are being delivered to school districts all over the state, so that each building will receive at least one. This kit includes all items needed to establish a screening station and will allow a district to screen employees and students, if wanted.
  • He also noted that every school district has sufficient PPE. All have received funds for the purchase of PPE, and department-level acquisitions are available to supplement needs. There should not be any issue with PPE in any district.
  • The state has refined its response-level document to help school districts adjust plans and make modifications as needed. Secretary Key noted the risk levels are a useful data point but are not the only data point. These risk levels should be taken into consideration with local context.
  • Asked if the state was watching schools like UNC and Notre Dame, which have cancelled in-person classes, Governor Hutchinson noted the overwhelming majority of colleges are continuing with classroom instruction. From an Arkansas standpoint, we have a good plan as long as students and faculty do what they need to do.
  • In response to questions, Governor Hutchinson and Secretary Key reinforced that districts will start with on-site instruction. Virtual is an option, but it is not something school districts can just do automatically. Consultation with the Department of Health and Department of Education will be needed before deciding to move to 100% virtual learning.
  • Asked if schools will face repercussions if photos or videos reveal schools are not following proper protocol, Secretary Key noted the state will not impose penalties. The real penalty will be the impact to the community as games, band concerts, and other activities are cancelled.

 

 

8/19/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 729 additional cases since yesterday, August 18, for a total of 54,216 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,919 active cases, with 38 of those cases in nursing homes, 961 in correctional facilities, and 4,920 in the community. There have been 47,666 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—631. There are 499 hospitalized patients, with 114 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,025 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 108,581.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the State. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced he is submitting an application to FEMA for the $300 a week in enhanced unemployment compensation as set forth in the President’s recent executive order. A legislative subcommittee approved the appropriation on Tuesday, but it still needs final legislative approval on Friday. By submitting the FEMA application, it could put Arkansas ahead of other states in the process, helping provide assistance to Arkansans in need. He did caution potential recipients it could take several weeks for the application to be approved, and federal guidance could change. Also, the state will seek $300 versus $400, because the additional $100 a person would put a strain on the balance of CARES Act funds.
  • Mentioning UAMS modelling, the Governor said as a policymaker he wants all the data he can get, but some of the UAMS modelling is unhelpful. The projections on infections are unhelpful to him, as many cases are those who are asymptomatic. However, the modelling for ICU and hospital capacity is useful. He also mentioned that as the peak continues to move further in time, now mid-December, this is good news as far as flattening the curve.
  • The Governor did not disagree with the UAMS modelling, which said going all virtual for schools would reduce cases. However, it ignores the reality that in-person education gives students the best opportunity for success under the circumstances.
  • The Governor mentioned that CDC guidelines set testing 2% of a state’s population a month as the goal, which would be 60,000 tests in Arkansas. Arkansas submitted a plan with a goal of testing 4% of the state’s population, which is 120,000 tests. Even at a reduced rate from last month, the state is exceeding the CDC goal and the state plan.
  • Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents performed 1,210 inspections for compliances with ADH directives and found 90% were in compliance. 113 violators received a verbal warning. ABC has issued citations to 17% of those in violation of ADH directives.
  • Asked about 25 students in classroom and whether that made social distancing impossible, the Governor said that does not go against ADH guidance. He said students should wear a mask if they cannot social distance. Also, the circumstances are fact intensive based on the local circumstances. He said the schools he has seen have put together good safety plans.
  • Regarding a Pope County revival two weeks ago, the Governor said he saw some pictures online that raised concern. That said, with a few exceptions, churches are doing a good job of following ADH guidance.
  • The Governor said he is screened every day for COVID-19, but he has not had symptoms, so he has only been tested once, when he went to the White House.
  • Asked whether the decline in testing was due to a decline in demand or supply, the Governor said it could be both, and they may be feeding off one another. He said for some that know it could take four to five days to get a result, they do not want to isolate for that time, so they do not get a test. Also, the lack of necessary testing prior to elective surgeries may have reduced testing demand.
  • Regarding higher education, and whether he needed to take a stronger tone based on issues at the University of North Carolina and other colleges, the Governor said he could always have a stronger tone. However, it is up to the college administrators to set the right tone. He said what occurred at other colleges could occur in Arkansas if students are not vigilant.
  • Asked about what would occur if teachers refuse to show up to school on Monday, the Governor said teachers have a contract and responsibility to work. He noted that he recognized that everyone is nervous, but the schools have a good plan to ensure teacher safety.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Regarding mitigation plans for large events that are submitted to ADH for approval, Dr. Romero said it is important for applicants to follow the guidelines as issued and corrected, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Regarding whether a class of students would be required to quarantine if their teacher tested positive, Dr. Romero said it was dependent on the level of contact and exposure based on the circumstances.
  • Dr. Romero said the testing data has been cleaned up and additional tests have been added.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • Secretary Preston said that instead of the state having to match $100, associated with the President’s executive order providing funds for those that are unemployed, what the state currently pays out will account for the match. Most states are taking this approach. If the state had to contribute an additional $100, it would cost approximately $250 million on the low end, exhausting CARES Act funds.

Mike Moore: Regulatory Administrator for the Arkansas Beverage Control Division

  • Mr. Moore said that his inspectors would be paying special attention to college towns this weekend, as college terms begin next week.

 

 

8/18/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 410 additional cases since yesterday, August 17, for a total of 53,487 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 410 cases, 85 were from correctional facilities, and 325 from the community. There are 5,898 active cases. There have been 46,970 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—619. There are 492 hospitalized patients, with 122 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,675 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 99,484.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference in Blytheville at Arkansas Northeastern College.
  • The Governor mentioned that the city of Earle and Comcast entered into a $1.8 million agreement for rural broadband expansion through Arkansas’s Rural Connect program. The state has allocated a total of $24 million for Rural Connect grants. Additionally, an Arkansas Legislative Council subcommittee approved another $100 million for rural broadband expansion efforts this morning. The Governor also mentioned that the state allocated $20 million for Wi-Fi access points for students in rural Arkansas and 380 have been provided to school districts in Mississippi County, where Blytheville is located.
  • Blytheville is in Northeast Arkansas near Tennessee, and the Governor mentioned that Dr. Deborah Birx, with the Federal Coronavirus Task Force, discussed her concern yesterday about border areas, because of cross border travel.
  • Asked about the state of Oklahoma creating specific envelopes for mail-in ballots, making it easier to determine that the mail is election-related, the Governor said that is an innovative idea. He hopes the Arkansas Secretary of State will examine the feasibility of the idea and discuss it with county election officials.
  • Regarding whether there is sufficient testing to have a good understanding of the spread of COVID-19, the Governor said yes. He believes the trend is that cases are flat or going down. He said he could not imagine doing 4,000 tests a day a couple of months ago.
  • Asked about the coalition of governors who have entered into a Letter of Intent to purchase testing supplies, the Governor said it will take some time to obtain the supplies. The Governor noted that the federal government has prioritized antigen testing supplies for nursing homes. Arkansas has 1,200 antigen tests and hopes to replenish those supplies with the help of the coalition.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Dillaha provided an overview of COVID-19 testing. She said when a person becomes infected, it can take up to 14 days to become symptomatic, but on average, individuals become symptomatic in five to six days. They can spread COVID-19 one to two days before becoming symptomatic, even before they know they are infected. Once symptomatic, it can take 10 days for the body to clear out COVID-19 so you cannot spread it anymore. Therefore, a key strategy is to identify when symptomatic as quickly as possible and isolate.
  • The PCR tests are not as unpleasant as they once were; there are nasal swabs that do not require healthcare workers to perform the test. They are the most accurate but can take several days to get the results back, as they must be sent to a testing lab. Antigen test results can be received in 15-20 minutes, but only one test can be processed at a time. These tests are only useful if symptomatic. If negative and asymptomatic, then a PCR test is needed.

 

 

8/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 412 additional cases since yesterday, August 16, for a total of 53,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 412 cases, 12 were from correctional facilities, and 400 from the community. There are 6,341 active cases, with 38 in nursing homes, 994 in correctional facilities, and 5,309 community cases.  There have been 46,133 individuals who have recovered. Total deaths—603. There are 486 hospitalized patients, with 120 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,093 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 94,809.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

On August 15, the Arkansas Department of Health announced that over 1,000 positive cases in Arkansas have been classified as being from out-of-state residents and have thus been removed from the official count of Arkansan positives. They have stated that they will release updated results sometime in the next week. Until they do so, this chart will reflect the original daily reported number of positive cases from the Department of Health.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor reported that Dr. Deborah Birx, with the Federal Coronavirus Task Force, was in Arkansas today. The Governor said Dr. Birx made very encouraging remarks about Arkansas’s efforts combatting COVID-19, mentioning that Arkansas’s cases were decreasing. The Governor was not prepared to predict a continued downward trend unless citizens continued to follow public health guidance. Dr. Birx indicated that the federal government acquired testing supplies, putting the priority on disbursing those supplies to nursing homes. Arkansas will have to adjust the timeline on its testing plans, but not its strategy. The state has received 1,200 antigen tests for the 200-antigen testing systems it acquired but needs more supplies.
  • The Governor has reviewed the United States Postal Service’s letter regarding absentee voting, saying there could be delays if everyone waits until the last minute to mail in their ballots. The Governor said this means to simply not wait until the last minute to mail in an absentee ballot.
  • The Governor mentioned that approximately 52 private schools, with 15,000 students and 2,000 facility and staff, started today.
  • Asked if he was worried about Little Rock School District teachers not showing up for school next Monday, the Governor said he was disappointed the Little Rock Education Association advocated for that approach. Also, the Governor has not heard of a statewide issue with excessive teacher retirements or resignations. He hopes accommodations can be made before a teacher decides to retire or resign because of concerns about COVID-19.
  • Regarding positive cases with college students being attributed to the state they are from, the Governor said that made sense. The first two weeks of school are more reflective of what occurred before a student came to campus. However, it is important that ADH have the information, as well. The Governor stated it will be challenging to have college students comply with public health guidance completely but noted that if they were not on campus they would be in the community, which could lead to further community spread. If there is an outbreak like there has been at the University of North Carolina, the Governor indicated that each college would be responsible for determining how best to proceed.
  • As far as school district level data and how it should be used by parents, the Governor said he wants parents to be aware of circumstances, consistent with confidentiality requirements. He knows that rumors are often much worse than reality.
  • Asked about a spit test that has received FDA approval, the Governor said Dr. Birx indicated that it could be rapidly produced by mid-September. Arkansas will do its best to obtain those tests, knowing it will be competitive to receive them.
  • The Governor plans to be in Blytheville tomorrow.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Regarding updates to ADH’s data, Dr. Romero said some negative cases had not been entered. Additionally, ADH cleaned up the data so there were less redundancies. Also, some individuals were counted as being in-state, when in fact they were from out-of-state.

 

 

8/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 626 additional cases since yesterday, August 13, for a total of 52,392 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 626 cases, 189 were from correctional facilities, and 437 from the community. There are 6,359 active cases, with 62 in nursing homes, 778 in correctional facilities, and 5,519 community cases. Total deaths—587. There are 466 hospitalized patients, with 113 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,519 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 73,150. The cumulative positivity rate is 8.9%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor issued an executive order extending the public health emergency for another 60 days. While the state is making progress in responding to the pandemic, the pandemic has not abated.
  • The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) issued a directive for school superintendents and athletic directors (AD), providing guidelines for large outdoor and indoor venues for school sponsored events. The AD will be tasked with figuring out how to ensure compliance with the directive. The goal is not to be heavy-handed, but to remind individuals of the need to wear masks and social distance. The goal is to provide guidance without ADH having to review every facility. Additionally, ADH provided more specific guidance for bands and choirs. This weekend, intra-squad football games can proceed, with interschool pre-season scrimmages next week. The season will begin as planned, but it is up to everyone, including parents, to maintain discipline and comply with the public health requirements, to ensure the season continues.
  • Asked if after five months in and 500 deaths, the lack of progress with testing demonstrates a failure of government, the Governor said now was not the time for judging the response but trying to find solutions. He knows all levels of government are working hard to fix the testing problem, including the federal government pushing commercial labs to do more. He did acknowledge that the lack of testing progress was disappointing.
  • The Governor said a surprising number of states, 10, had agreed to join the testing supply coalition. While not an immediate fix, further in the fall it could be part of the solution.
  • Regarding an open letter in the newspaper from parents raising concerns about the upcoming school year, the Governor has reviewed the letter. He believes they have valuable ideas and he values ideas presented by the community and educators. However, he believes he has addressed many of their concerns, such as obtaining PPE, and a phased-in approach has been accomplished by delaying the school year by two weeks.
  • The Governor said the state has not received point-of-care, quick turnaround testing kits.
  • Regarding concerns from parents about communication regarding positive tests in schools, the Governor said he has challenged Secretary Key with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and Dr. Romero with ADH to be as transparent as possible while not breaking any laws or regulations concerning confidentiality.
  • Asked about large outbreaks in correctional facilities and human development centers (HDC), the Governor said the state has a great responsibility to those that live in those facilities. The state is testing everyone in HDC and correctional facilities. Additionally, the Board of Corrections is considering whether non-violent offenders could be eligible for release.
  • Asked what he would say to those individuals struggling financially, the Governor said he would let them know he understands their concerns and wants to see that they endure their economic hardship. He wants to keep the economy open so jobs will be available, and he wants Congress to find solutions to help ensure there is a strong safety net.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Regarding the state’s lab, Dr. Romero mentioned there was a national shortage of lab technicians because of a tight job market. He said these jobs were good opportunities for young graduates to get invaluable experience. Also, the ADH received a third high-throughput machine, which they hope to have up and running next week.
  • Dr. Romero also said the process for testing students is evolving. Once school begins, those with symptoms consistent to COVID-19 should seek testing at their local health unit. If positive, a contact investigation and tracing will begin. If negative, they should receive a PCR test. If there is an outbreak, ADH is exploring sending an ADH team, of which there will be 10, to that area for mass testing.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key showed a Kids Guide to the Coronavirus that ADE received this morning, paid for with CARES Act funds, which will be distributed to schools and agencies. It is a kid friendly guide to help children understand the need for wearing a mask and washing hands.
  • Secretary Key said Little Rock School District had been provided 1.5 million masks, to help bridge the gap until they receive additional PPE. ADE is providing masks to other school districts encountering supply chain issues.
  • The Arkansas School for Math, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA), which is a residential campus for approximately 200 high school students, had a smooth first week this week. ADE hopes to learn more from ASMSA’s first week before other schools begin.
  • Regarding staffing issues that may develop due to COVID-19, Secretary Key said staffing is a localized issue, but ADE is watching the issue closely. Many districts use staffing agencies. Secretary Key understands parent and other stakeholder fears, but he believes strongly that some students cannot have their needs met if they are not on-campus.

 

 

8/13/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 652 additional cases since yesterday, August 12, for a total of 51,766 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 652 cases, 13 were from correctional facilities, and 639 from the community. There are 6,582 active cases, with 71 in nursing homes, 735 in correctional facilities, and 5,776 community cases.  There have been 44,602 recoveries. Total deaths—582. There are 473 hospitalized patients, with 112 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,192 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 67,416.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor showed a series of slides demonstrating that cases had decreased among children the past several months, particularly in the 10-18 age range.
  • The Governor announced an Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide for parents, teachers, and others with best practices in preparation for the upcoming school year. It is a partnership between Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
  • Asked if there would be legislative support for expansion of unemployment benefits, as proposed in the President’s executive order, the Governor said that legislative support would be necessary. He is gathering legislative feedback as well as seeking continued guidance from the federal government.
  • Regarding high school sports fan attendance, the Governor said he is working with ADH on a more standardized plan, as there are over 300 high school sports stadiums. Currently, attendance over 100 people would require an individualized plan with up to 66% of the maximum occupancy allowed. Tailgating plans must be approved by ADH.
  • Asked about a Johns Hopkins report putting Arkansas in the top 10 states with highest positive percentage rate, at 12.4%, the Governor said the time period is important. He said Arkansas’s cumulative rate was 8.8%, but the Johns Hopkins study could be over a shorter time period.
  • In response to a question about a social media post showing a teacher had received insufficient PPE, the Governor said each school district received CARES Act funding for PPE and ADE set aside $1 million for PPE.
  • Asked about White House statements regarding the Postal Service and voting rights, the Governor largely avoided responding directly, instead imploring Congress to reach an agreement on the matters that they can agree on, as there is a sense of urgency in responding to COVID-19 at the state level. Regarding voting rights, the Governor said it should be a bipartisan issue on providing greater access to voting.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero also spoke favorably about the slides showing that the positivity rate for children and number of cases amongst children has decreased since the beginning of the summer, and how it could be a good sign for the upcoming school year.
  • Regarding contact tracing for cases involving students or school employees, Dr. Romero said there are no dedicated contact tracers for schools, but there is a dedicated phone line for schools to report information to ADH.

Dr. Cam Patterson: Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

  • Dr. Patterson said that the Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide (Guide) was written in plain English for stakeholders, on how to ensure a safe school reopening. There was a Governing Group and an Operating Group, made up of doctors, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders who are experts in a variety of disciplines, who assisted with the Guide. The goal was to answer three questions: if schools reopen, how can they be reopened in a safe fashion; what behavioral resources would be available to children; and what resources could be made available to address questions in real-time. The groups convened over three weeks to produce the Guide. It is data-driven and can be revised as new information is received. However, it will not be used to determine whether schools are opened or closed.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Director of the Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • The Guide will provide resources, including social-emotional support, to help turn the challenge of the upcoming school year into an opportunity.
  • ADE’s call center has received 30-50 calls a day, which are logged, recorded, and made available to the caller. ADE is constantly adjusting its approach and looking to improve.
  • ADE continues to receive PPE and is developing a strategic reserve. ADH has provided a recommended list of PPE on its website for school districts.

Sara Turner: Teacher in the Hot Spring District

  • Ms. Turner spoke about the upcoming school year. She said it would not look like any other school year, but she was looking forward to the opportunities it would present. While worried about the upcoming school year, she was more afraid of what would occur if there were no in-person education opportunities. Education will look different, but it does not have to be a negative experience.

 

 

8/12/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 703 additional cases since yesterday, August 11, for a total of 51,114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 703 cases, 24 were from correctional facilities, and 679 from the community. There are 6,725 active cases, with 69 in nursing homes, 741 in correctional facilities, and 5,915 community cases.  There have been 43,816 recoveries. Total deaths—573. There are 486 hospitalized patients, with 113 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,401 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 61,630.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. While in Monticello, the Governor was expected to visit a school for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Asked about the Arkansas Education Association saying schools were not prepared for the upcoming school year, the Governor said teachers’ concerns are natural and he fully respects those feelings. He said it is natural to be worried in this environment, and it can be good to be worried, as you are more likely to be careful. The Governor acknowledged that any adjustments to the school guidelines will be made based on new data.
  • The Governor announced the state was entering into a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the Rockefeller Foundation and other states, forming a consortium to enhance their buying power and strengthen their place in the COVID-19 testing market. The state will provide specifics once the LOI has been entered into and before a contract is formalized. Currently the LOI is with a small number of states, which is likely to grow. Asked if the LOI was a signal that the state was not receiving enough assistance from the federal government, the Governor said that testing was so important for the state’s strategy that he will continue to push for national solutions, but it is important from the state’s perspective to create demand for those that produce the testing materials.
  • Asked about new WHO guidance on non-essential dental care, the Governor said the state has not changed its guidance allowing for it, following the recommendations of the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
  • The ADH guidelines for fall sports have not been finalized but are expected soon.
  • Regarding the National Governors Association’s (NGA) request to the White House for $500 billion, the Governor said Arkansas does not need that money, but some states have been hit much harder by COVID-19 than Arkansas. The Governor would like federal stimulus funds to be utilized for school assistance, broadband expansion, and enhanced Medicaid reimbursement. As far as the President’s executive order on unemployment insurance, which may not require a state match, the Governor said he is still discussing the matter with his cabinet secretaries and has not made a final decision.
  • Asked why the case numbers were decreasing in Northwest Arkansas, the Governor said it was due to increased testing, contact tracing, and a concentrated effort by the community to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • ADH will attempt to get more granular school level data, but Dr. Romero does not know if they can provide that information while respecting confidentially requirements.
  • Asked about a situation where there have been positive cases at a school in Little Rock, Dr. Romero said the school’s response was appropriate. The school did not have to notify the whole school, just those in close contact with the infected individuals.
  • Following up about the study regarding an increase in cases amongst children, Dr. Romero said Arkansas’s cases amongst children were driven by Northwest Arkansas cases, where children were infected by their parents, and since Northwest Arkansas cases are trending down now, there has been a decrease in cases among children in Arkansas.
  • Regarding fan attendance at fall sports, schools will need to submit a proposal for the games, which would require individual approval from ADH.

 

 

8/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 383 additional cases since yesterday, August 10, for a total of 50,411 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 383 cases, 69 were from correctional facilities, and 314 from the community. There are 6,847 active cases, with 60 in nursing homes, 817 in correctional facilities, and 5,970 community cases. There have been 42,998 recoveries. Total deaths—566. There are 507 hospitalized patients, with 116 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,140 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 57,229. 1,836 antigen tests were performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor believed the decrease in testing could be attributed to frustrations with delays in receiving results. The Governor discussed the need for increased testing with the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force and Vice President Pence yesterday. The Governor believes that efforts are being undertaken by the federal government to increase testing at commercial labs.
  • The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) is working with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to provide school district level data to the public.
  • Asked whether the decrease in cases was due to the mask-wearing directive or a lack of testing, the Governor said there would be a decrease in cases even if there was an adjustment for an increase in testing. He is not ready to call it a trend, but he is encouraged by the past several days of decreased cases.
  • Regarding a scientific journal discussing that infection rates in children were greater than previously thought, the Governor thought that was important information, but it will not impact his decision on resuming in-person education this fall.
  • Asked whether ADH was tracking the connection between cases and an activity, such as restaurants, gyms, and bars, the Governor said ADH still does the analysis once a week. ADH has not seen a connection to an activity or location.
  • Regarding what factors can be determined by the school district level data, the Governor said the community spread, active cases, positivity rate, whether the positivity rate is increasing or decreasing, and the hospitalization rate in the area would be communicated to ADH and ADE to guide the school district response to cases.
  • Asked about an observation that some coaches say players are safer by playing sports on campus versus not playing, the Governor reiterated that sports could provide a structure that they may not receive outside the team environment.
  • The Governor will be in Monticello tomorrow for his daily press conference.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero said if cases continue to decline it will most likely be due to the mask-wearing directive.
  • Regarding a scientific journal saying it had seen a 90% increase in COVID-19 cases amongst children, Dr. Romero said Arkansas is not seeing a large increase but is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases in children.
  • ADH is not seeing clustering in activities that had previously been restricted, and although some infected individuals say they have been to restaurants, there is no focality.
  • Coaches are showing a lot of leadership in helping prevent cases in student athletes.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The school district level data, which will be reflective of the population of the broader community, not just those within the school setting, can provide for better decision making at the state and local level. The ADE and ACHI partnership will be a weekly feed of data and analysis overlaid on geographic locations. The cumulative and active cases will be provided by school districts, along with the rates of testing, which can be useful in assisting with the response levels if there are positive cases.

 

 

8/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 645 additional cases since yesterday, August 9, for a total of 50,028 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 645 cases, 13 were from correctional facilities, and 632 from the community. There are 7,343 active cases, with 52 in nursing homes, 841 in correctional facilities, and 6,450 community cases. There have been 42,139 recoveries. Total deaths—555. There are 508 hospitalized patients, with 117 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,341 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 52,946. The cumulative positivity rate is 8.8%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by discussing the President’s weekend executive orders (EO). The Governor worked over the weekend to determine what impact the EO have on Arkansas. The Governor said he still needs more information to determine the totality of the impact. He has determined that the President was doing his best to provide economic relief to those in need, however, the Governor said the best solution is for Congress to reach an agreement to provide unemployment compensation at an increased level. He believes Congress should deploy $1 trillion in funds immediately. If the state must come up with a quarter of the funds for the unemployment relief, it would cost the state approximately $265 million for the 120,000 Arkansans who receive unemployment assistance. The state would have to adjust its priorities and potentially tap into $250 million in CARES Act funds that are dedicated for education. Also, any appropriation would require legislative approval, which could increase time until relief is provided. Thus, the quickest and fairest relief would be for Congress to address the issue and provide additional assistance for schools.
  • The Governor, while discussing his daily slides, said he sees the impact of the mask-wearing directive due to the decline in cases over the past week. He mentioned that UAMS projected there would be 55,000 cases on August 10; however, on a positive note, the state bested this projection by 5,000 cases.
  • Additionally, the Governor showed slides comparing Arkansas to other states in the region. At approximately 1,500 to 2,000 cases per 100,000 residents, the state is middle of the pack. The state is doing well as far as testing, with 20,000 tests per 100,000 residents. Also, the state is average in positivity rate, at 8.8% compared to other states in the region.
  • 1,495 antigen tests were performed in August. The Governor expects to receive the new shipment of antigen testing systems this week. The issue is not delays with post office delivery. The Governor said, jokingly, that he offered to drive to pick up the testing systems, if it meant the state could receive them sooner.
  • Asked what else could be done to reduce cases, which doubled from 25,000 to 50,000 in approximately a month, the Governor said if large outbreaks occur, additional restrictions could be implemented again. He did say that in good news, hospitals appear able to manage their cases, PPE has been acquired, and an infrastructure for dealing with COVID-19 appear to be in place. He does not want a plateau of 700-800 cases, so there needs to be more compliance with social distancing and mask-wearing.
  • The Governor disagrees with the Arkansas Teachers Association, who have requested that the first two weeks be virtual, calling it a difference in approach. He believes in-person education is good for students and measures will be in place to keep them safe.
  • In response to a question about Ft. Smith and Bentonville football players testing positive, and the team still practicing, the Governor said that is the right decision based on Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines.
  • Asked about the Big Ten potentially cancelling the upcoming football season, the Governor said he does not believe that the SEC should cancel its season. He knows the University of Arkansas has been working with ADH regarding the upcoming season. He believes the players and coaches are prepared and working through these difficult circumstances.
  • Regarding football games, coaches and staff would be required to wear a facemask if they cannot maintain social distance, 12 feet, during the game. Players would not be required to wear a cloth mask during games.
  • The Governor mentioned that a new ADH youth sports directive would be issued soon.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero said the trends show that cases appear to be decreasing, and if cases level off in the 500-600 daily range, it would be good evidence the mask-wearing directive is working.
  • Dr. Romero discussed a respiratory viral syndrome which could be more prevalent this year, which can cause acute paralysis and weakened appendages in children. Facemasks and hand washing can reduce the spread.
  • Asked about a Duke University study about different materials and their ability to disrupt COVID-19 transmission, Dr. Romero said 14 types of coverings were studied, and cotton/polyester was found to work almost as well as surgical masks, but neck gaiters do not appear to provide much protection.
  • Regarding COVID-19 transmission from surfaces, Dr. Romero indicated that the studies are primarily in a controlled environment, but routine sanitation is enough to disrupt and stop the transmission. You do not need a deep HAZMAT clean if you utilize good sanitation practices.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • While there are 120,000 Arkansans on unemployment compensation, it is better than May, when there were 120,000 Arkansas just on traditional unemployment. $1.3 billion in pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) has been provided to Arkansans, which has helped keep the economy moving in the right direction.
  • The Department of Workforce Services (DWS) continues to see evidence of PUA fraud. If an individual’s account is in frozen status, they should receive information in the mail this week to begin the process of unfreezing their account. Approximately 37,000 Arkansans have had their account frozen, but Secretary Preston is unsure of how many are still frozen.

 

 

8/7/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,011 additional cases since yesterday, August 6, for a total of 48,039 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,158 active cases, with 53 in nursing homes, 687 in correctional facilities, and 6,418 community cases. There have been 40,360 recoveries. Total deaths—521. There are 523 hospitalized patients, with 116 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,224 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 34,222. The cumulative positivity rate is 8.7%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • There were 14 counties with over 20 cases yesterday.
  • The Governor announced $20 million in CARES Act funding will be provided for a COVID-19 Emergency Leave Fund for teachers and support staff. This will provide up to two weeks of paid leave for those employees who must quarantine due to COVID-19. This fund will be provided until the end of calendar year, due to the CARES Act. However, the hope is there will be another stimulus package that provides additional assistance for schools, which could extend the eligibility period.
  • The Governor also announced that he signed an executive order, putting into writing that an individual can receive an absentee ballot if they have concerns about going to the polls due to COVID-19. Also, the executive order will allow for processing absentee ballots a week before election day, instead of only on election day. This should allow for more quickly counting those absentee ballots. However, the actual ballots cannot be opened until 8:30 a.m. on election day.
  • In response to a question, the Governor does not get the sense that the virus is out of control in Arkansas, despite an increase in cases and positivity percentage, as the number of cases has been flat recently.
  • The Governor responded to a question about comments made by the Jonesboro School Superintendent, who said the Governor’s School reopening plan was based on economic consideration instead of educational considerations. The Governor said he had heard her concerns, and disputed them, saying his decision was made in consultation with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), and CDC guidelines. He brought up comments made by the CDC’s Dr. Redfield, who said on July 24 that the goal should be that most students can have face-to-face instruction this fall, while complying with CDC guidelines. Also, Dr. Redfield said there are many factors to consider when it comes to in-person education this fall. While the 5% positivity rate is important for hotspots, it is really about the need to be more cautious in hotspots. The Governor believes the plan set forth in Arkansas is consistent with what has been discussed by Dr. Redfield.
  • Contact sports drills can continue next week.
  • The Governor finished co-chairing the National Governors Association meeting yesterday. Testing was discussed at length with the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency. He was pleased with HHS’ intensity in response to concerns raised about increasing testing capability.
  • Regarding the considerations for transitioning to virtual learning for a school due to COVID-19, the Governor said there are several criteria that will be considered in responding, based on the community risk. Examples include how many schools are impacted, the positivity rate, the number of cases, testing, among other factors. ADH will provide guidance along with ADE. The Governor mentioned that he does not want to penalize a school because of cases in a correctional facility.

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about school-level data for those that are absent due to COVID-19 or test positive, Dr. Romero noted that it is possible that ADH can provide county-wide or school district data, but he does not believe ADH has the ability to get granular level information at the school-level.
  • Regarding future mass-testing events, Dr. Romero said ADH will have more in the future, but ADH will focus on where there are a high number of cases. Also, ADH will be judicious in determining when events occur, as they do not want testing fatigue to occur.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The $20 million from the CARES Act leave fund can be accessed first, before other leave options. The $20 million was a high estimate, but the ADE wants to be prepared. This proposal includes bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The formula is based on an extreme overestimate of community cases, by double or triple, based on the percentage of the population around the state, and with the average salary at the school-level. Also, ADE consulted with stakeholders on the plan.
  • The ADE does not expect every student to be on campus every day, but ADE does expect that every school campus will be open daily, for students who need in-person instruction or therapy. There are some students who need five-days a week, in-person instruction.
  • Regarding the hotline ADE created for parents and teachers, Secretary key said it is possible that hotline workers do not have answers for questions posed, but if they do not have answers, they will connect the caller with the resources to have the questions answered. There has been an overwhelming number of calls, and the team is doing the best they can.

 

 

8/6/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 735 additional cases since yesterday, August 5, for a total of 47,028 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 735 cases, 44 were from correctional facilities and 691 were community cases. There are 6,958 active cases, with 71 in nursing homes, 548 in correctional facilities, and 6,339 community cases.  There have been 39,555 recoveries. Total deaths—515. There are 514 hospitalized patients, with 111 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,514 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 27,998. The cumulative positivity rate is 8.6%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Dr. Jose Romero: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero reminded the audience that Governor Hutchinson is chairing the National Governors Association meeting in Washington D.C. today, August 6.
  • Asked again about the metrics that would need to occur before schools were closed due to COVID-19, Dr. Romero said those metrics are in the Response Levels for On-Site Learning document prepared by the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE).
  • In response to a question about cases in daycares, Dr. Romero said there have been cases, but he does not have specific information on individual daycares.
  • In any given year, 9 million – 45 million Americans end up with the flu with 12,000-61,000 deaths. The flu places a significant burden on hospitals and their ICUs. Therefore, it is important to get the flu vaccine, as hospital capacity is limited currently, and hospitals do not need the additional burden from flu cases.
  • Dr. Romero is unfamiliar as to why there would be 10 deaths yesterday associated with a nursing home in Garland County.
  • Dr. Romero was asked why there needs to be an outbreak in schools before there would be a transition to in-person education. He responded that cases are not climbing significantly, and the hope is that the mask-wearing directive will continue to drive down cases. The original projections were that it would take two weeks to see progress from the mask-wearing mandate, but it could take another two weeks to see the results of that effort. Also, there will be antigen testing of students, teachers, and other staff who have symptoms or exposure to COVID-19, but there is not a plan to test those just because they are coming to the school.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health

  • ADH hopes to have a flu vaccine available next month. The flu vaccine is very important because you do not want to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Only half of Arkansans get the flu vaccine, and ADH wants the number to be much higher. ADH will have a drive-through for the vaccine on September 21, and will make it available at schools, too.
  • There is a misconception about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. The most common misconception is that the vaccine is all or nothing, which is not really the case. For half of those who receive the vaccine, it will work well enough to prevent seeing the doctor if symptomatic. Some will get the flu even with the vaccine, but the vaccine provides your immune system a running head start to fight the virus. Sometimes this keeps people healthy enough to not require hospitalization or stay alive. The goal is preventing hospitalization or death.

 

 

8/5/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 912 additional cases since yesterday, August 4, for a total of 46,293 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 912 cases, 158 were from correctional facilities and 754 were community cases. There are 6,937 active cases, with 88 in nursing homes, 513 in correctional facilities, and 6,336 community cases.  There have been 38,848 recoveries. Total deaths—508. There are 516 hospitalized patients, with 106 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,077 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 23,078.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Dr. Romero has been named the permanent Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Secretary, a cabinet-level position.
  • UAMS’ model projects 55,000 cases, 3,686 cumulative hospitalizations, and 543 hospitalizations by August 10. The Governor said he looks at projections to see what the state can do to beat those projections. He did not see anything too startling or concerning in the projections.
  • The Governor said ADH has issued new directives and fall guidelines for band and choir.
  • The Governor said the state was prepared to test 100% of inmates in state correctional facilities by the end of the month. 10 of the state’s 19 correctional facilities have been fully tested, including the Delta Unit in Chicot County, where most of the 157 correctional facility cases came from today. 10 National Guard personnel will assist the Department of Corrections.
  • Asked about teachers and staff having to quarantine in other states, the Governor said that it is not surprising, and the state will address any issues between now and school resuming. The Governor receives advice from fellow governors on the reopening of schools in their states.
  • The High School Sports Advisory Board provides counsel to the Governor and ADH and will provide suggestions this week for the Governor. The Advisory Board will continue to meet and provide additional guidance if issues arise. The Governor is not aware of any issues that have arisen this week. The Governor reiterated that student-athletes could be engaged in riskier behaviors if they were not involved in school-based extracurricular activities.
  • The Governor is not in favor of cancelling standardized testing, as requested by the Arkansas Education Association. The state needs to know the consequences associated with COVID-19 as it pertains to education and where students stand currently.
  • Regarding whether hospitals are inflating the numbers of COVID-19 patients to get enhanced payments, the Governor said he is not aware of the issue. He said he meets regularly with hospitals and has found that they have behaved well in treating COVID-19 patients. While there is an additional cost associated with treating COVID-19 patients, he is unaware of any issues with hospitals overcharging for their services.
  • Asked about a cooperative of governors to bulk purchase PPE, the Governor said he has read the proposal and he is interested, as it could be helpful, but he needs more details. The consortium could magnify each state’s purchasing power for antigen testing and ensure states can protect the supply chain.
  • Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Secretary Key will provide more information on Friday, August 7, regarding what will occur if teachers are required to quarantine during the school year.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked if there were any metrics for school closures, Dr. Romero said there are no metrics yet. Ultimately, the decision will be made by the school superintendents, but ADH will be available to assist in discussions.
  • Regarding a study saying children have 10-100 times the levels of COVID-19 RNA in their noses, and whether they should be considered COVID-19 spreaders, Dr. Romero said that the letter does not say children under five spread COVID-19, just perhaps they have more COVID-19 in their systems. Presently, Dr. Romero said the evidence is that children under 10 do not spread COVID-19 as much, but that could change based on increased knowledge on the subject.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) will open a call center with partners such as ADH and Arkansas Childrens Hospital to provide resources to parents and teachers.
  • Asked about the suspension of standardized testing, Secretary Key said the federal government had waived the testing requirement in the spring, but they have not issued waivers currently. Thus, ADE is not considering that option, as it could put federal funding at risk. Regarding less than five days of in-person education, ADE has provided some flexibility, but there has been no change in ADE’s stance that in-person education for five days a week is the plan.
  • In response to the question about school closures, Secretary Key did say that local superintendents have flexibility, but within the system of response levels developed by ADE and ADH. The goal remains to avoid school closures, to minimize and mitigate disruption to students. Secretary Key said you cannot think of education right now in the context of the pre-COVID-19 world. The state has a responsibility to provide an adequate education to all students and is working in the context of the COVID-19 world to provide that to all students.

Dr. Greg Bledsoe: Arkansas Surgeon General

  • The High School Sports Advisory Board has met twice. They are focused on providing a safe way for high school sports to continue this fall. They understand that sports and other activities provide opportunities to many students they may not otherwise receive.

 

 

8/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 784 additional cases since yesterday, August 3, for a total of 45,381 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 784 cases, 10 were from correctional facilities and 774 were community cases. There are 6,891 active cases, with 88 in nursing homes, 393 in correctional facilities, and 6,410 community cases.  There have been 38,000 recoveries. Total deaths—490. There are 526 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 101 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,840 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 18,001. The cumulative positive rate is 8.5%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor spoke about the state’s revenue report and how it was good news, as he was concerned July would be a down month to begin the fiscal year. He said the state ran a surplus that exceeded the forecast, which should provide some confidence for those in the state, although there is significant unpredictability nationally.
  • The Governor said he has reflected on the upcoming school year and he is glad that it has been postponed by two weeks, to study what other states have done and as an opportunity to better prepare. The Governor does not believe extracurricular activities at schools should be cancelled. He believes students deserve the opportunity to be provided a chance to be successful and have a season. The Governor said he hears three different messages from three different doctors at the national level when it comes to schools. However, it seems all agree that local decisions must be made based on each state’s circumstances, which he is doing. Secretary Key with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) will discuss education matters during tomorrow’s press conference.
  • The Governor mentioned that there is an ongoing investigation regarding fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, which is causing a backlog for legitimate claims. The Governor showed a letter he received, as someone fraudulently applied for PUA under his name. He said it can happen to anyone and asked the public to aid by reporting any suspected fraud.
  • The Governor will provide an update on antigen testing results once a week or every two weeks as receiving and processing those results is inefficient. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is working to identify a new process.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Of the 5,840 tests performed yesterday, the public health lab did over 2,200 tests. ADH has a high throughput machine online, so Dr. Romero believes testing capacity will continue to increase. ADH has a very good lab for a state the size of Arkansas.
  • Dr. Romero asked that those who are tested provide their phone number, as ADH has identified a lack of phone numbers for those tested as an issue with contact tracing.
  • Dr. Romero also stated that if someone is concerned enough to get tested, then they should quarantine until they get the results.
  • Asked about the process for reporting positive cases at schools, Dr. Romero said students and teachers would self-report to the schools. The schools will then provide those names, as well as the names of those who could potentially be exposed, to ADH for contact tracing.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • In addition to the Governor, Secretary Preston noted several cabinet secretaries have also received notice of fraudulent PUA claims. A national/international crime ring has significant personal information stored on individuals and is using that information to file fraudulent claims.
  • Secretary Preston said that unfortunately the state must flag more claims to stop fraud, as the state must pay the federal government back for fraudulently paid claims. 27,000 PUA claims are frozen due to potential fraud and 10,000 in unemployment insurance (UI) claims. The Department of Workforce Services (DWS) will partner with other state agencies on verification stations around the state to work through the frozen claims. DWS is sending out letters to all those that have frozen claims, providing them with the process for having claims unfrozen. DWS hopes to have the backlog resolved within the next several weeks.
  • Continued claims are down to 90,000, but DWS has seen high level of initial claims, approximately 10,000-15,000 a week, due to fraud.
  • Secretary Preston is unsure how much has been paid out in fraudulent claims, but traditionally DWS has done a very good job in preventing fraudulent payments. DWS has paid out $500 million in PUA claims and $1 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
  • With traditional UI claims, there could be less fraud as the unemployment letters are also sent to businesses, and with the PUA there is no employer letter. It is harder to verify information with the PUA claims.

 

 

8/3/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 787 additional cases since yesterday, August 2, for a total of 44,597 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 787 cases, six were from correctional facilities and 781 were community cases. There are 6,882 active cases, with 80 in nursing homes, 392 in correctional facilities, and 6,408 community cases.  There have been 37,240 recoveries. Total deaths—475. There are 513 hospitalized patients, with 108 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,357 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 12,025. There have been 242 antigen tests performed in August, with 202 negative and 40 positives. 194,836 tests were performed in July.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor said he had attended the High School Sports Advisory Committee today and they were hard at work looking at all the issues associated with fall sports.
  • The Governor said the state received 100 antigen testing machines, but not the testing kits. The state expects another 100 testing machines and the kits by mid-August. The antigen tests will be assigned to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) public health units, where the priority will be testing for K-12 teachers, staff and students. Those tests will be free of charge at the ADH public health units.
  • The testing goal for August will be 190,000 PCR tests and 10,000 antigen tests.
  • Asked about Dr. Redfield with the CDC saying that hotspots with a positivity rate over 5% should consider distance learning, the Governor said it was his understanding that the CDC recommendations were to have a positivity rate less than 10%. The goal remains to begin the school year with in-person learning, but blended learning is an option, and if necessary, the state will consider other options. Asked if there was a red-line for whether he would pull the plug on in-person education, the Governor gave no specific number or positivity rate. He did note that he met with the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and there did appear to be a recognition that it made sense to begin the year with consistency across the whole state. The Governor said he speaks with teachers and listens to what they have to say regarding the upcoming school year.
  • Regarding whether there is a correlation between increased cases in Northeast Arkansas and Western Tennessee, the Governor said it is a possibility. He said there has been a sense that COVID-19 is an urban problem, but there has been an increase in cases in rural Arkansas.
  • The Governor will be the Vice-Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as the Chair. He does not see the NGA acting as a counterbalance to President Trump, but the NGA does a good job leading regarding states’ needs and COVID-19.  The Governor will be the NGA Chair next year.
  • The Governor said it is possible that an increase in cases in Sebastian County is due to a recent music festival. That said, he does not view it as a Fort Smith issue, but a reminder to the whole state of the need to pay attention to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Regarding the University of Arkansas beginning school soon, and having many students from Texas, the Governor said the University has a good plan for the upcoming school year.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero said he visited some Hispanic businesses in Southwest Little Rock, and he was impressed with the amount of mask-wearing he saw and signs requiring mask-wearing.
  • Dr. Romero mentioned the importance of Arkansans getting the Influenza vaccine this year. The program is ramping up under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Dillaha. Influenza vaccinations will be available soon.

 

 

7/31/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 752 additional cases since yesterday, July 30, for a total of 42,511 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 752 cases, 33 were from correctional facilities and 719 were community cases. There are 6,645 active cases, with 75 in nursing homes, 329 in correctional facilities, and 6,241 community cases.  There have been 35,413 recoveries. Total deaths—453. There are 507 hospitalized patients, with 100 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,207 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 188,478.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) had submitted a schedule, beginning next week, for no-contact football team drills, with the potential for full-contact drills the next week. AAA will submit a plan for football, volleyball, band and cheerleading for the fall. Also, the Governor announced an advisory board will begin meeting on Monday to make recommendations on best practices for fall sports to the Governor and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). ADH will also learn from training and practice on what adjustments need to be made. The Governor made this decision after communicating with parents, students and other stakeholders that passionately described the difference sports make in student-athletes’ lives. The Governor said that if students are not playing sports, there is a higher risk of them being put in situations for the disease to spread. The athletes should be motivated to keep their communities safe. The Governor said face shields on football helmets could be a good option but would like to learn more.
  • Attending games is a separate issue and would be subject to the large venue guidelines. It will require social distancing, masks and submittal of additional plans.
  • The Governor said he was pleased that testing had increased but cases remained flat.
  • Regarding the destruction of confederate monuments in Little Rock, the Governor said debate is fair and the right process, which can lead to action, but destruction of public property is not the right way to go about it.
  • Asked about the loss of $600 in unemployment benefits for the unemployed, the Governor said it was concerning. He noted Arkansas is recovering and doing better, but Arkansas cannot survive on an island. He expects the $600 will be reduced, because you do not want to pay individuals to stay home, but you need to find a balance that provides a safety net.
  • The Governor spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Azar this week about testing and expects to see increased testing reflected in the next month.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero acknowledged that sports this fall will be a learning experience. ADH has advised the Governor, and the Governor is considering the global picture. ADH will continue to provide further recommendations. Other sporting activities will be considered in the future. Dr. Romero mentioned a football coach educated him that the actual time in game with physical contact is approximately six minutes out of 60, which goes into the possibility of less transmission. It is up to players to keep the team in play by not spreading the disease, if they are willing to put in extra effort.
  • Regarding guidance for hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Romero said there had been confusion amongst physicians that ADH was advocating against its use. ADH stands by the FDA recommendations, but physicians can prescribe it off-license for COVID-19, if they feel it is appropriate and the patient understands the risk.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has partnered with AAA for several years analyzing the impact of athletics on students’ academic performance. Secretary Key said they have seen higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem, lower discipline and higher attendance rates among student-athletes.
  • Asked about no virtual learning for Pre-K students, Secretary Key said there were two reasons. Pre-K students are recommended to have limited screen time, and, unlike K-12 funding, there are several funding sources with strings attached, that would make virtual learning difficult.

Lance  Taylor: Executive Director of the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA)

  • Mr. Taylor showed a mask and said it was the most important thing for sports to occur this fall.
  • Mr. Taylor said AAA would be submitting a plan to ADH for cheerleading next week. He also said ADH is tweaking the guidelines for band.
  • The goal is to start football on schedule, since other border states are starting football on schedule.
  • The numbers of positive cases for student-athletes have gone up, but mainly because of athletes traveling out of state for sports.

 

 

7/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 791 additional cases since yesterday, July 29, for a total of 41,759 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 791 cases, 32 were from correctional facilities and 759 were community cases. There are 6,580 active cases, with 77 in nursing homes, 319 in correctional facilities, and 6,184 community cases. There have been 34,737 recoveries. Total deaths—442. There are 504 hospitalized patients, with 101 on ventilators.

There were 5,598 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 181,456.
The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that the Arkansas National Guard will be providing 14 additional personnel to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to provide operational support.
  • The Governor stated that there have been 5,084 antigen tests since June 11. The results are as follows:
    • Positive: 548 (11%)
    • Negative 4,506 (89%)
    • Inconclusive 30 (0%)
  • Of those results, 2,073 (41%) were received electronically and 3,011 (59%) were provided by fax. The Governor noted that it is a much easier process for the ADH if the results are received electronically, so they want to figure out a way to get more of the results electronically.
  • The antigen results, as presumptive positives, do not go into the system as positive cases. If an individual tests positive with an antigen test, they should have a PCR test performed to confirm if the individual is positive. The Governor wants to encourage antigen tests, but knows the costs need to be addressed. It generally costs $95 for a test, and it depends on the insurance company whether it is covered.
  • Asked about higher than forecasted sales tax receipts, the Governor said the results have been good statewide. The Governor believes the stimulus payments and online sales tax receipts have boosted local business. He is very encouraged.
  • Asked about Tyson Foods’ new testing plan, where they will regularly test all employees, the Governor said he is supportive of their aggressive measures.
  • Asked about President Trump’s tweet about moving election day, the Governor anticipates having the election as scheduled, and Arkansas will be ready to have safe elections.
  • Regarding an all-day worship outdoor event in Siloam Springs scheduled to have 1,100 attendees, ADH cannot approve or deny their request. The Governor noted that ADH does appreciate religious groups providing them with a plan, so ADH can be helpful in ensuring a safe event.
  • Tomorrow the Governor will have an update on sports, including fall contact sports.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Regarding the elective surgery directive, where COVID-19 testing was required prior to elective surgery, retrospective analysis determined that a very small percentage, less than 1% of those tested, were positive. The decision to test before elective surgery will be left up to the individual physician and institution but should be considered due to the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community. With such a small percentage testing positive, it was clogging up the system and taking up much needed testing capacity.
  • Dr. Romero had a wide-ranging conversation with school administrators today, stating their questions were very well thought out. He said it remains a moving target, but as it gets closer to August 24, the day school will begin, ADH will be able to provide more concrete information to school administrators. This will include answering specific questions like whether some school workers could be considered essential workers.

Dr. Joe Thompson: CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

  • The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) will begin tracking and posting active cases at the city-level. This will include over 100 communities where there are at least 10 cases. There are over 400 communities with at least one case. This information is needed for local leaders to make the best possible decisions on how to respond to COVID-19.

 

 

7/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 787 additional cases since yesterday, July 28, for a total of 40,968 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 787 cases, 170 were from correctional facilities and 617 were community cases. There are 6,586 active cases, with 80 in nursing homes, 342 in correctional facilities, and 6,174 community cases.  There have been 33,938 recoveries. Total deaths—428. There are 508 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 108 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,519 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 174,638. There is an 8.2% cumulative positivity rate.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today’s press conference was held on the campus of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
  • The Governor announced that Verizon has joined in the partnership to provide wi-fi access points to Arkansas students.
  • Chicot County, a rural county in Southeast Arkansas, had the highest number of cases yesterday with 152. 145 were from a correctional facility.
  • The Governor participated in a call yesterday with the White House, during which the White House indicated that commercial testing supply chain would be increased in August, which should allow for more testing in Arkansas.
  • Asked if antigen tests may not be reported to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), which only reports the number of PCR tests, the Governor said that was a good question and would be reassuring if that were the case. It shows the importance of accounting for the antigen tests.
  • Regarding a report saying Arkansas has the highest per capita prison infection rate, the Governor said this could be because Arkansas has a more comprehensive response when there is a positive case in a correctional facility. In Arkansas correctional facilities, they test every inmate in a unit when there is a positive case, even if asymptomatic, which may not be occurring in other states.
  • Asked if outbreaks in schools will be treated like prisons, the Governor said a plan was still being developed. Specifically, some of the 200 antigen testing systems could be provided for K-12 schools. Higher education received funding through the CARES Act Steering Committee for testing and contact tracing for the upcoming school year.
  • If a school district needs to change from in-person to virtual learning due to a COVID-19 outbreak, it will be coordinated by the local district and the ADH.
  • Responding to a report about Dr. Romero’s comments regarding reentering Phase II, the Governor said he likes to hear dissenting voices and what medical professionals think. The decision to enter Phase II was made based on the option with the greatest consensus amongst his health advisors. He said he would continue to make his best judgment based on the advice he receives in the future as it relates to whether or not to begin in-person education this school year. Thus far, there has been unity regarding his decisions as it relates to the upcoming school year.
  • The Governor has not received any reports of major incidents regarding individuals not wanting to wear a mask when requested.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: State Epidemiologist Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Dillaha provided an overview of isolation versus quarantining. She said one should isolate, meaning being separate from others in a home, and wearing a mask and social distancing if you have others in the home, for 10 days, beginning when symptoms begin or when tested, if the symptoms are mild. If hospitalized or with severe symptoms, then one should isolate for 20 days. A quarantine is when one has been potentially exposed and does not know if they will actually get COVID-19. In that instance, an individual should quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine means staying in one’s home and wearing a mask and social distancing if there are others in the home.
  • Regarding a Newton County nursing home outbreak, Dr. Dillaha said if there is a staff shortage, an employee that is asymptomatic can care for a resident that has tested positive. If exposed and showing no symptoms, an employee can continue to work, if screened and the employee has no symptoms.

 

 

7/28/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 734 additional cases since yesterday, July 27, for a total of 40,181 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 734 cases, 20 were from correctional facilities and 714 were community cases. There are 6,565 active cases, with 79 in nursing homes, 225 in correctional facilities, and 6,261 community cases.  There have been 33,188 recoveries. Total deaths—428. There are 501 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 110 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,248 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 170,119.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor thanked the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC) for passing two appropriations: a $16 million CARES Act appropriation for the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to hire more contact tracers and a $7 million CARES Act appropriation for the Northwest Arkansas Council to be used in addressing COVID-19 in the Marshallese and Latinx communities.
  • Eleven counties in Arkansas have more than 20 cases. The Governor noted these are not good numbers.
  • The Governor displayed a new slide with the percent positivity by county of residence on July 28, 2020. There were five counties in the highest category, those over 18.5% positivity: Washington, Yell, Hot Spring, Lincoln, and Lee counties.
  • The Governor stated that ADH would break down test results by PCR test results versus antigen test results. He said the reason was because positive results from antigen tests were presumptive positives, as they had 95% accuracy. The reason for the antigen tests is because you get the results in 15-30 minutes.
  • Asked about a Springdale company that has produced a test that provides rapid results, which is in talks with the FDA for an expedited application, the Governor was not sure if he would be able to provide any leverage since the FDA is moving as fast as safely possible.
  • Regarding a bar in Northwest Arkansas that says it does not have to comply with the mask-wearing directive, and what percentage of Arkansans think it is an assault on their individual liberty, the Governor said he expected that tough questions would be asked when he issued the mask-wearing directive. He said it is exactly the reason he was hesitant to issue the directive, but it was a decision that had to be made. The Governor stated he is used to making unpopular decisions. He has imposed restrictions with much deliberation, as it is a matter of balancing public health with the independent spirit of Arkansans. He said he understands and identifies with the independent spirit. However, he said he thinks that by and large Arkansans understand the need to wear a mask.
  • The Governor was asked about a state senator mentioning it may be time to revolt, due to the mask-wearing directive. The Governor does not think it is time to take up arms, and thinks the sentiment was not literal, but figurative.
  • The Governor said contact sports are not presently allowed and gave no timeline for potentially making a change in that decision.
  • The Governor stated the timeline for potentially seeing results from the mask-wearing directive is two weeks but depends on the effectiveness of the mask-wearing directive in motivating Arkansans to wear masks.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about recoveries, Dr. Romero said recoveries occur 10-20 days after a positive case if there are no more symptoms. ADH does not follow those that have recovered afterwards to see how they are faring.
  • Some of the 20 deaths reported today are not from the past 24 hours and there has been no clustering associated with those deaths.
  • Dr. Romero said that antigen tests look at the COVID-19 shell and its protein versus PCR tests, which look for COVID-19 RNA within the sample. A positive antigen test is a presumptive positive as it is not conclusive that COVID-19 is present, like a PCR test.
  • There has been an outbreak at a Newton County nursing home, but ADH is still conducting testing to determine the extent of the outbreak.
  • Asked about his email to Dr. Nate Smith, former ADH Secretary, where Dr. Romero cautioned against the state entering Phase II of reopening, Dr. Romero said the Governor did not make a mistake in entering Phase II. However, Dr. Romero believes that the mask-wearing directive is essential and is appreciative of the Governor’s support for mask-wearing, including, ultimately, the mask-wearing directive.

 

 

7/27/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 824 additional cases since yesterday, July 26, for a total of 39,447 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 824 cases, 10 were from correctional facilities and 814 were community cases. There are 6,674 active cases, with 81 in nursing homes, 294 in correctional facilities, and 6,299 community cases.  Total deaths—408. There are 489 hospitalized patients, with 110 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,929 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 164,001.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC) will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. (CST) to consider the CARES Act proposal for minority communities. The Governor was optimistic that ALC will support the proposal after having more time to study it. He thinks the legislature is taking the pandemic seriously and engaged in good faith, but the challenge is there is a sense of urgency in deploying the funds. Asked if there was a backup plan, the Governor said there is, but the problem with a backup plan is it creates a backup in the system, and the state needs to get the resources out quickly.
  • The Governor made an announcement regarding online instruction for the upcoming school year. The Governor announced that $10 million in federal funds will be utilized to provide wi-fi access points for K-12 students to take home so they can access the internet, if they have a cellular signal. 20,000 units will be distributed. While the Governor does not know how many students this program will provide internet access to, it can be supplemented by local funds. As the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) gets survey results back from local school districts, there will be a better sense of student need.
  • The Governor also announced that the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will receive 200 antigen testing systems, as was recommended by the CDC’s Admiral Giroir. The Governor stated that the goal is for the state to control its destiny regarding testing. ADH will create a plan on how to disperse the systems.
  • Regarding a music festival in Ft. Smith, where the Alcohol Beverage Commission issued citations due to violations of the ADH mask-wearing directive, the Governor said the enforcement officers handled it appropriately. The plan was good, but there needed to be better execution, which will be instructive for the future.
  • In regard to legislative frustration with a lack of testing turnaround, and some legislators’ concerns that contact tracing may be ineffective due to the delays, the Governor said he does not know of any state that has given up on contact tracing, even with delayed testing results.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Also asked about the Peacemaker Festival in Ft. Smith, and the violations for lack of mask-wearing and social distancing, Dr. Romero indicated that ADH would consider the issue going forward when reviewing proposals for large events.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key stated that a survey had been sent to school districts to determine their readiness for the upcoming school year. The survey will address local school district Ready for Learning committees, including their composition, their plans (including how they propose to communicate to stakeholders), what percentage of students will be taking advantage of the different education delivery methods, and the supply status of PPE. The information will be provided on ADE’s website.
  • Regarding school district concerns about what constitutes an adequate supply of PPE, Secretary Key said $1 million in CARES Act funds will be utilized to stockpile PPE. Since adequate supply is a moving target, this should ensure all school districts follow CDC guidelines.
  • The 20,000 wi-fi access points will comply with federal privacy laws and have tech-support for families. Further ADE guidance will be provided on how the devices will be allocated to school districts.

Sally Bennett: Superintendent of the Rivercrest School District

  • Superintendent Bennett said the digital divide was real and deep in rural Arkansas. A lack of rural broadband access is a major concern and a challenge for planning for the upcoming school year. She believes the proposal for the wi-fi access points is a great investment in being able to fully serve students.

 

 

7/24/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 990 additional cases since yesterday, July 23, for a total of 37,249 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 7,028 active cases, with 148 in nursing homes, 552 in correctional facilities, and 6,326 community cases.  Total deaths—394. There are 497 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 109 on ventilators.

 

There were 8,015 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 141,069. The cumulative positivity rate is 8%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor’s Daily Press Conference focused on the 2020 census. He said the state’s response rate of 57% was below the national average of 62%. He highlighted a complete count is important for receiving federal turnback funds. Regarding President Trump’s memo on illegal immigrants and congressional apportionment, the Governor said the message in Arkansas is everyone is counted, as emphasized by the Constitution.
  • Asked about President Trump saying that schools in hotspots may need to delay reopening, the Governor noted that there are 30 days until the start of school and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will continue to work with local school districts to provide the right guidance. He did note that virtual learning may become necessary.
  • Asked about the large increase in cases, the Governor stated that it could take a while to see the results of the mask-wearing directive, but he is hopeful. He noted that there were 55 cases in Newton County, Arkansas, one of the most rural areas of Arkansas. That means that everyone must be vigilant.
  • A reporter asked the Governor whether the Great American Conference’s decision to start athletics in September would make him consider something similar in Arkansas. The Governor noted that Arkansas is learning through the process and will make any necessary adjustments. The ADH is working closely with the governing body for school sports. He noted that schools have not been released for full contact drills in football.
  • Regarding the Arkansas Legislative Council rejecting $7 million in CARES Act funds for contact tracing efforts for minority populations, as recommended by the CDC, the Governor said it was not a good message. The funds are there and there is an urgency for the funds, as they are very much in need. He said he would continue to work with the legislature on this matter.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero mentioned that nursing homes may receive point-of-care testing machines, to quickly assist in evaluating the situation when there are positive cases.

George McGill: State Chairman for the Arkansas Complete Count Committee

  • Ft. Smith Mayor George McGill is Chairman of the Arkansas Complete Count Committee. He emphasized the importance of the completeness of the 2020 Census as it helps determines how much money Arkansas will receive for education, roads, taking care of senior citizens, and many other important priorities.

Kara Wilkins: Census Coordinator for the Arkansas Counts

  • Ms. Wilkins’ organization helps educate hard to count populations in Arkansas on the benefits of participating in the 2020 census. She noted $7.5 billion is distributed to Arkansas based on census data. There are 90 days left to complete the 2020 census.

Danny Burrell: U.S. Census Bureau

  • To date, 880,000 households and 1,000,000 Arkansans have responded to the 2020 census. This puts Arkansas in 41st place in the country as far as not completing the census. He noted that the census results would be held in the strictest confidence and not shared outside the Census Bureau.

 

 

7/23/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 1,013 additional cases since yesterday, July 22, for a total of 36,259 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 1,013 cases, five were in correctional facilities and 1,008 were from the community. There are 7,009 active cases, with 146 in nursing homes, 869 in correctional facilities, and 5,994 community cases. There have been 28,864 recoveries.  Total deaths—386. There are 480 hospitalized patients with 107 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,487 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 133,054. The cumulative positivity rate is 8%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that State Senator Jason Rapert has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized.
  • The Governor also announced that Solomon Graves has been appointed Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He replaces Wendy Kelly. Secretary Graves previously served as Kelly’s Chief of Staff and on the Governor’s Transformation Task Force. His challenge will be in enacting transformation by bringing the community corrections division and department of corrections together. The Governor asked Secretary Designate Graves to take the job because of his experience and understanding of how to develop a transformative culture.
  • The Governor stated that most of the positive correctional facility cases are at the Ouachita River Correctional Facility in Hot Spring County. This is concerning as this is the facility that houses the prison population with mental health issues, the elderly, special needs, and medical conditions. Also, the state’s prison population is evaluated at this facility. The Governor noted that they have tested 100% of the Ouachita River Correctional Facility population with 577 positive cases out of a population of 1,700. The Governor has challenged his leadership team to determine what more could be done to prevent spread within the correctional facility.
  • There is no plan to allow visitation at correctional facilities currently.
  • Asked about the Arkansas Chapter of the American Association of Pediatrics (ACAAP) letter that has been discussed the past several days, the Governor said he believed the state has built a county-by-county framework for local education decision-making based on the situation in each local area.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero noted that in correctional facilities, inmates have been issued face coverings and are screened multiple times a day at meals, along with there being active testing in the correctional facilities.
  • Dr. Romero confirmed that the positivity rate is calculated by the total number of tests and positive cases that day, which changes over time, as specimen results are often received later.
  • Dr. Romero stated the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) made new recommendations regarding nursing homes and other congregate living centers. Rules for nursing homes rules will stay largely the same. Visitation at congregate living centers, where there are individual housing units, will be determined based on whether there are positive cases in the individual housing unit.
  • Dr. Romero provided an update that ADH has developed electronic measures to more rapidly receive results from labs and coroners, with more information to be provided next week.

Dexter Payne: Director of the Arkansas Corrections Division

  • There have been 8,583 inmates tested, with 4,789 testing positive. 103 inmates have been to outside hospitals, while 21 inmates have passed away.
  • Director Payne listed the correctional facilities that have positive cases but said several units have no cases. They do the same thing at all the units but would not consider them lucky at the units without cases, maybe blessed.

 

 

7/22/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 591 additional cases since yesterday, July 21, for a total of 35,246 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 591 cases, seven were in correctional facilities and 584 were from the community. There are 6,876 active cases, with 140 in nursing homes, 916 in correctional facilities, and 5,820 community cases. There have been 27,990 recoveries.  Total deaths—380. There are 474 hospitalized patients with 107 on ventilators.
There were 3,993 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 123,762.
The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his press conference in Fayetteville at the Washington County Regional Medical Center. He said he had been in Siloam Springs to tour a La-Z-Boy factory and was impressed with the company’s policy requiring mask-wearing.
  • The Governor also met with healthcare workers and local school districts in Northwest Arkansas. He said he could see the exhaustion and stress on the face of healthcare workers. The Governor said there were two things that could be done to help nurses: recruit new nurses so existing nurses could get some assistance and relieve the burden by lowering the number of cases.
  • The Governor showed slides with the seven-day rolling average for cases and hospitalizations by public health region. In Northwest Arkansas, which the Governor called the beginning of a success story, the cases and hospitalizations have reduced from their peak and flattened out. All public health regions are flat or declining in cases. The Governor noted that more testing is needed.
  • Asked about the discrepancy in cases reported by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Washington and Benton County coroners, the Governor believed there could be a lag time in when ADH receives information from the local level.
  • While testing is not where the state would like it to be, the Governor believes longer hours at the ADH public health unit has taken pressure off the local hospitals in Northwest Arkansas regarding testing.
  • The Governor said cases are not associated with the lifting of restrictions. He mentioned at one point there were increased cases associated with bars, so the state heightened its enforcement efforts associated with bars. If the state begins to see a correlation between an activity and increased cases, every option to address the issue will be on the table.
  • Asked if he had read the letter from the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ACAAP), where the ACAAP indicated they believed schools should be opened on a county-by-county basis, the Governor said he had read it. He said he saw many recommendations the state has implemented, and others need to be discussed, and perhaps could be implemented in the future. He said it was a thoughtful letter.
  • Regarding the UAMS model, the Governor said the state pays attention to all data and guidance, including UAMS’ model. He noted that ADH’s mask-wearing directive could impact the model within two weeks.
  • Asked about childcare funds for parents that may have to utilize virtual learning this fall, the Governor said it highlighted the need for in-person instruction. He said the Department of Human Services has childcare funds available, but that likely would not benefit parents who have children in grade school or older.
  • The Governor has not read the President’s memo regarding the census and excluding undocumented immigrants. He noted that he would have the state’s census task force speak on Friday.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • The correctional facility cases continue to be driven by the Ouachita River Correctional Facility in Hot Spring County.
  • 72% of the cases in Washington County, where Fayetteville is located, are from those under 44. This is not following the national trend. 60% of the deaths in Washington County are from the Marshallese community.
  • 17.9% of the cases in Washington County are from children. Dr. Romero stated that new data is demonstrating that children under 10 are generally not COVID-19 spreaders. Additionally, children over 10 are generally not at a high risk in a classroom environment.
  • Asked if the ADH could receive information by email, so they would have less of a lag time on information, Dr. Romero said it depends on HIPAA and confidentiality.

Larry Shackelford: CEO of Washington Regional Medical Center (WRMC)

  • Mr. Shackelford said the National Guard members at WRMC are working in the call center, allowing nurses to go back to treating patients. He said their call center was receiving 15,000 calls a week.
  • At its peak, WCRMC had 40 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 16 on a ventilator and a large number in the ICU. The trends are improving with hospitalizations decreasing.

Eric Pianalto: President of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas

  • Mr. Pianalto noted his hospital has had many very sick patients, peaking about two weeks ago. Some were related to COVID-19, but many were related to a delay in seeking medical care due to COVID-19.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • Mr. Preston stated that DOC has made six announcements in the past several weeks regarding over 1,400 jobs added around the state. This includes 1,000 jobs at an Amazon facility in Little Rock and a Gerber facility in Ft. Smith, which added 50 new jobs with a $30 million investment.
  • Mr. Preston noted that there are 92,000 continued unemployment insurance claims, which continue to decrease. Fraud continues to be an issue, with 20,000 claims under review.
  • Mr. Preston stated that this week was the last week for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, through the CARES Act, which provides an additional $600 a week for those who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

7/21/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 728 additional cases since yesterday, July 20, for a total of 34,655 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 728 cases, 122 were in correctional facilities and 606 were from the community. There are 6,998 active cases, with 138 in nursing homes, 921 in correctional facilities, and 5,939 community cases. There have been 27,283 recoveries.  Total deaths—374. There are 488 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 110 on ventilators.
There were 5,670 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 119,769. The cumulative positivity rate is now 7.9%.
The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor mentioned he has held meetings with the Arkansas Education Association, teachers, principals, and others about how the additional time before the school year begins was needed to obtain PPE and get teachers and the facilities ready for the school year. Teachers have raised important questions that need to be answered, because everyone wants to go back to school safely. Their concerns are primarily about safety and, if they must quarantine, how it will impact their benefits. The Governor noted the school year does not begin for another 30 days, so there is time to resolve the concerns. Some details will be school district dependent.
  • The Governor showed a clip from NBC News with five pediatric infectious disease specialists who all said, without hesitation, they were prepared to send their kids to school in-person this fall. However, the Governor and Dr. Romero have not seen a letter from the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ACAAP) asking that schools be allowed to decide regarding reopening on a county-by-county basis.
  • Asked about businesses not requiring mask-wearing, and if it could jeopardize their ability to utilize the liability protection provided by executive order, the Governor did not have an answer. He said it would be a question of fact for a factfinder if it was brought to court. He said the executive order is to incentivize compliance with the directives issued by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
  • Regarding contact tracing and testing for minority populations in Northwest Arkansas, the Governor stated that the CARES Act Steering committee has provided funding, and he hopes it is approved by the legislature this week.
  • Asked whether testing provides an accurate picture of COVID-19 in Arkansas, as it often takes a lengthy amount of time to obtain results, the Governor said he is not happy with the length of time it often takes but that the results are still informative.
  • The Governor will be in Fayetteville, in Northwest Arkansas, tomorrow for his press conference.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Dr. Romero noted that the pediatricians in the NBC News clip are well-respected.
  • Asked about the ACAPP letter, he said that it is important to remember that with COVID-19, responding is a moving target. It is important to be flexible and adjust to the circumstances. Any recommendation may not be viable in a week or two.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key mentioned the efforts of several school districts regarding implementation of their local plans for the upcoming school year. Secretary Key mentioned the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District having clearly defined safety options and staggered schedules. Mountain Home had several doctors on their local committee and came up with seven very specific actions to prepare for the school year. Quitman is staggering their start date so students and teachers can be acclimated to the new procedures. Stuttgart has effectively utilized social media to communicate with parents and students. Springdale has utilized video tools to provide updates to parents and students.
  • Secretary Key welcomes input from all stakeholders but does not plan to utilize the request of the Little Rock Teachers’ Association for a phased-in approach for the school year.

 

 

7/20/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 699 additional cases since yesterday for a total of 33,927 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 699 cases, 11 were in correctional facilities and 688 were from the community. There are 7,127 active cases, with 121 in nursing homes, 1,093 in correctional facilities, and 5,953 community cases. There have been 26,397 recoveries.  Total deaths—363. There are 471 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 111 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,689 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 112,646. The overall positivity rate is 7.8%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The mask-wearing directive is effective today.
  • There are 11 counties with over 20 cases yesterday, July 19.
  • The Governor showed a slide with the rate of hospitalizations per 100,000 residents. Arkansas was third on the list of southern and bordering states, with approximately 80 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.
  • 10 National Guard members from the Arkansas National Guard will be providing case management services for 30 days to the Washington Regional Medical Center in Northwest Arkansas. The members will help alleviate the nursing shortage by allowing nurses to focus on medical care.
  • The Governor has a regular call with other Republican Governors, where they discuss issues like how to best utilize CARES Act funds and the upcoming school year. Mask-wearing mandates have not been discussed.
  • The Governor acknowledged that meeting the goal of 200,000 tests in July will be difficult. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) plans to provide more testing locations.
  • Asked about the Benton County Quorum Court preparing an ordinance in defiance of the mask-wearing directive, the Governor said he does not understand it, as the directive is to protect the community during a public health crisis. He does not see it as an infringement on individual liberty. The Governor said by and large he has been pleased with law enforcement’s response, though some law enforcement officers say they will not enforce the directive.
  • The Governor does not anticipate extending the beginning of the school year to after Memorial Day.
  • Asked about Long-Term Care Facilities reopening, the Governor said he understood it was going smoothly, but some have not been able to reopen due to positive cases.
  • Regarding the next CARES Act stimulus package, the Governor expects there to be assistance to states for contact tracing, testing, and for the reopening of schools.

Dr. Jose Romero: Acting Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

  • Asked about what medical conditions would not require an individual to wear a mask, Dr. Romero said there are no listed conditions in the directive. However, those with compromised respiratory conditions would not be required to wear a mask.

Mitchell Simpson: Associate Director, Arkansas Energy Office

  • The Arkansas Energy Office will receive $8.2 million in CARES Act funds to assist low-income Arkansans. $6.9 million will go to those with larger than expected utility balances or those who have depleted their winter fuel. It does not require a shut-off notice, just a past-due notice. It raises the amount of assistance from $500 to $1,500. $1.3 million will go towards assisting those who need air-conditioning cleaning or repair.

 

 

7/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 648 additional cases since yesterday, July 16, for a total of 31,762 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 648 cases, 39 were in correctional facilities and 609 were from the community. There are 6,633 active cases, with 131 in nursing homes, 1,013 in correctional facilities, and 5,489 community cases. There have been 24,776 recoveries.  Total deaths—353. There are 464 hospitalized patients, with 101 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,861 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 94,148.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today was Dr. Smith’s last day providing daily updates. Dr. Jose Romero will become Acting Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Secretary upon Dr. Smith’s departure for the CDC.
  • Former Governor and Arkansas Senator David Pryor has been released from the hospital.
  • The Governor noted that Arkansas’s unemployment rate declined from 9.6% to 8% in June, which is significantly below the national rate of 11.1%.
  • The Governor has asked Dr. Romero for recommendations on how to increase testing.
  • Asked about the White House Coronavirus Task Force report which included Arkansas as a hot zone location, the Governor said he has reviewed the report and spoken with task force members. Specifically, he said while the state is not shutting down bars, the state is increasing enforcement to ensure compliance. The state is taking steps to accomplish the same thing the task force wants to accomplish, fewer cases.
  • Regarding local law enforcement officials stating they would not enforce the Governor’s executive order mandating facemasks, the Governor said he has a call with Sheriffs this afternoon. He will listen to them and recognizes that law enforcement priorities are set at the local level; however, he will still stress the importance of the mask-wearing mandate, as it could motivate the small percentage of Arkansans who have been resistant to mask-wearing.
  • Responding to a question about legislators disagreeing with the mask-wearing mandate, the Governor noted that he must make tough decisions, but there has been significant legislative support for the mandate. He has not considered what he would do if the legislature issued a resolution of disapproval for the mandate.
  • Asked if summer travelers should quarantine after vacationing, the Governor said that several questions should be asked. Most importantly, what were they doing while vacationing? Depending on what they did and where they went on vacation, Arkansans should consider being tested or quarantining upon their return.
  • Regarding long lines of frustrated Arkansans at unemployment offices, the Governor noted that due to an increase in fraud and identity theft, the Department of Workforce Services is having to be especially vigilant. The state must balance paying close attention and protecting taxpayer money with being sympathetic to those going through tough times.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • ADH is working to obtain more antigen tests, which are point-of-care tests that can provide results in a short period of time. Also, ADH plans to double its lab capacity in the near future.
  • Asked about the White House Coronavirus Task Force Report, Dr. Smith said the recommendations were largely boilerplate. Arkansas has not seen hotspots in bars and gyms, like other states. That said, ADH is reviewing the information and will implement recommendations when appropriate.
  • Dr. Smith said where you go on vacation is not as important as what you do on vacation, regarding whether individuals should quarantine upon return.

Dr. Joe Thompson: CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

  • Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has been acting as a surge capacity amplifier for ADH, providing communication and data analytics services.
  • ACHI has been speaking with mayors who indicate they need the ability to provide citizens accurate information on the degree of COVID-19 in their communities. ACHI will begin providing city-level COVID-19 data to the public. However, communities with fewer than 10 cases will not appear on the list, due to privacy concerns.
  • 600 Arkansas communities have reported at least one case. Surprisingly, smaller communities have had a higher positivity rate than larger communities. Approximately 100 communities have a larger positivity rate than Little Rock.

 

 

7/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 817 additional cases since yesterday, July 15, for a total of 31,114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 817 cases, 81 were in correctional facilities and 736 were from the community. There are 6,578 active cases, with 138 in nursing homes, 978 in correctional facilities, and 5,465 community cases. There have been 24,195 recoveries.  Total deaths—341. There are 470 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 101 on ventilators.
There were 6,020 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 87,517.

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced a statewide mask-wearing mandate, effective Monday, July 20. The Executive Order can be viewed here. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will prepare the detailed mandate. He indicated several reasons for his decision:
    • New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths indicate we need to do more.
    • Doctors and nurses on the frontline have asked the public to do more.
    • Legislators had differing views but have indicated that while they may not like the idea of a mandate, they are open to whatever it takes to address the pandemic.
    • Since children will likely be wearing masks at school, it seems like adults should set the right example by wearing masks.
  • Masks must be worn both indoors and outdoors unless six-foot social distancing can be accomplished. There will be limited exemptions for the mask-wearing mandate. One notable exemption includes counties where ADH determines that the risk of community transmission is low. That means 28 days without a positive case and adequate testing. ADH is still fine-tuning that exemption. The mandate will have the force and effect of law, with it being a misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines up to $500. Violators would not be arrested or detained and those under 18 will only receive a warning. Cities and counties cannot create ordinances inconsistent with the Governor’s executive order. The Governor has not spoken specifically with law enforcement leaders about the executive order, but he is open to feedback.
  • Asked why he determined to issue the executive order after months of saying it would be impossible to enforce, the Governor said he does not believe that government coercion should be the first option. He believes that mask-wearing has broad acceptance now, which he believes is critical. It is currently the best tool available to stop the spread and help life return to normal. However, it is only one tool among many in a long-term strategy. There is no guarantee that there will be an immediate reversal in case increases and hospitalization. He is open to any tool that will help stop the spread.
  • The Governor expects that the mask-mandate would apply to legislators in the Capitol, as well. Regarding a legislator who has said there should be a special session to implement a mask-wearing mandate, the Governor does not believe a majority of legislators are in favor of a special session. He believes the legislature has provided him with authority to address the pandemic, including implementing a mask-wearing executive order.
  • Asked about providing financial assistance to parents who may have children attending virtual learning, the Governor reiterated his expectation that in-person learning be the primary plan for beginning the school year. He did not anticipate the state providing financial assistance but noted there could be federal funds for childcare.
  • ADH has aggressively begun working on addressing the CDC’s report from their time in Northwest Arkansas. An ADH subgroup met this week to address the report. Drs. Smith and Romero are following the subgroup closely. The Governor noted that General Dynamics has begun work on expanding Arkansas’s contact tracing program, including adding over 30 bilingual contact tracers.
  • The Governor has not decided on whether to attend the Republican National Convention. He will decide closer to the event.
  • The Governor announced that Dr. Smith’s last daily press conference will likely be tomorrow.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Dr. Romero noted that ADH is grateful to the Governor for the mask-wearing mandate.
  • ADH has no plans to provide city-level data on the website, but the ADH will begin adding more detailed information to their website.

Troy Wells: CEO of Baptist Health

  • Mr. Wells mentioned that while Baptist Health hospitals have more in-patient COVID-19 patients than they did a month ago, there are more ICU beds available now than a month ago. For instance, Baptist Health had 161 patients in ICU beds today, with 32 having COVID-19, versus 181 ICU patients on June 18, including 16 with COVID-19. They have 200 ICU beds available total. The large regional hospitals were at 80-95% capacity even before COVID-19. Each hospital has a surge plan and is good at managing their capacity. He believes there is adequate hospital beds in Arkansas.
  • Mr. Wells addressed lab testing. Baptist Health can perform tests in-house but are limited due to a reagent shortage.
  • Baptist Health has a Phase III research trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. To determine if you are eligible, visit arkansascovidvaccine.com

 

 

7/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 564 additional cases since yesterday, July 14, for a total of 30,297 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 564 cases, 78 were in correctional facilities and 486 were from the community. There are 6,439 active cases, with 130 in nursing homes, 979 in correctional facilities, and 5,330 community cases. There have been 23,523 recoveries. Total deaths—335. There are 458 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 94 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,146 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 80,862. The cumulative positive rate is 7.6%.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.
The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
  • The Governor highlighted that Walmart announced a countrywide mask requirement for their stores.
  • Asked about state COVID-19 data being sent to the White House first instead of the CDC, the Governor said he did not understand the necessity. He noted that the old system seemed to work well.
  • The Governor said there are no plans to implement comprehensive testing in schools, like in correctional facilities and nursing homes. The notification process for positive cases is being prepared with input from local teachers and communities. The Arkansas Education Association (AEA) issued a report where 90% of the 6,000 respondents said they had concerns about the upcoming school year. The Governor said that is a natural reaction when the future is uncertain. He encouraged teachers to closely watch the plans that are being developed.
  • In response to what happens if teachers get sick and whether they should get hazard pay, the Governor said that substitute teacher supply is controlled at the local level. The Governor knows that it would be financially difficult to provide hazard pay to every profession that interacts with the public during COVID-19.
  • Asked if there could be future changes to the model municipal mask-wearing ordnance, the Governor did indicate that his office was working with the Arkansas Municipal League on modifications to the model ordinance. He noted that he hears from both sides on statewide mask-wearing directives, but it is a tool that could be implemented in the future if necessary.
  • Responding to a question about quasigovernmental organizations like convention centers that are struggling, but cannot receive direct CARES Act funds, the Governor said there is no specific plan to provide state funds to them. He did mention that it could be considered at both the state level, through the CARES Act Steering Committee, and by Congress, if there is new stimulus legislation.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith noted that he spoke with a young person who had been on a ventilator with COVID-19 and has some health ailments even after recovering. Dr. Smith noted that some reports indicate that 90% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have persistent health concerns after hospitalization.
  • Asked about state COVID-19 data going to the White House first instead of to the CDC, Dr. Smith said the data flow is not as important as how it is used. If the CDC has quick access to the data, so it is actionable and can influence how it is used, then everything should be ok.
  • Responding to a question about comprehensive testing in schools, Dr. Smith said all potential interventions are on the table, but schools are different than other congregate settings where individuals cannot leave. Logistically, it could be more trouble than it is worth.
  • There is not a backlog in the state’s public health lab, and it has a turnaround time for tests of 24-48 hours.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Conway has the largest Human Development Center (HDC) in the state with 461 residents and a staff of 1,000. There was a recent outbreak, but the HDC staff have been vigilant in bringing the outbreak under control. 87 residents in seven houses have active cases, along with 18 staff. None of the infected individuals have been hospitalized or have died.

French Hill: Second Congressional District Congressman

  • Congressman Hill has proposed an amendment to the Defense Production Act that would help ensure timely widespread testing throughout the country is feasible. Also, Congressman Hill wants Congress to reassess CARES Act gaps to provide more state flexibility, so Arkansas can ensure CARES Act funds are used for broadband deployment and to support schools.

 

 

7/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 794 additional cases since yesterday, July 13, for a total of 29,733 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 794 cases, 33 were in correctional facilities and 761 were from the community. There are 6,558 active cases, with 130 in nursing homes, 971 in correctional facilities, and 5,457 community cases. There have been 22,844 recoveries. Total deaths—331. There are 445 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 91 on ventilators.
There were 6,563 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 75,445.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began by discussing the state’s strategy to address COVID-19. Testing remains key. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has continued to increase its testing capacity and performed a record 1,832 tests yesterday. The Governor sees the strain on the commercial labs, so he wants to have control over the state’s destiny regarding testing by building capacity. He said there is not a blank check, but he asks Dr. Smith frequently for proposals on how to increase testing capacity. While Arkansas continues to increase its testing capacity, the Arkansas congressional delegation wrote a letter to Vice President Pence asking for additional efforts to increase commercial testing capacity. They also outlined the testing challenges faced by Arkansas.
  • Arkansas is strengthening its enforcement and monitoring of ADH directives. ADH has 1,000 pending complaints. The Governor does not know the number vetted to determine their validity. The Governor has spoken with Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents and reported they have written citations and issued warnings separate from ADH complaints. ABC reports a common violation is management not responding when patrons wear a mask initially but then drift from table to table without a mask. Also, a common violation involves patrons not maintaining social distancing. Most are resolved by talking with management.
  • The seven-day rolling average for positive tests is over 10%. The Governor reported he monitors the positive percentage closely, and he gets concerned when it is over 10%.
  • The Governor said he has seen the Politico article featuring a CDC report regarding Arkansas’s response to COVID-19. ADH worked closely with the CDC and Dr. Smith has a working group responding to their recommendations. The Governor believes the Politico article was misleading. He said some quotes attributed to the CDC were actually from a focus group and feedback from the community. Regarding why the CDC did not address the poultry industry, the Governor said the CDC largely defined its own mission. The CDC may have determined that cultural barriers were the larger issue, as it is easier to monitor cases in the poultry industry.
  • The Governor will be in Conway tomorrow, July 15.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith knows some individuals are waiting too long to get their test results. ADH plans to double its testing capacity by adding two high throughput instruments. However, he does not have an update on the average turnaround time to receive test results. Asked if it is making the results unactionable, he said that it depends. Having quick results is preferred, but any result is helpful for contact tracing and potentially preventing the next wave of infections. Regarding South Arkansas residents going to Louisiana to get quicker results, Dr. Smith thought that may not be the best idea. There could be facilities in Arkansas that got results back faster than those in Louisiana. The solution is to build testing capacity everywhere, including Arkansas.
  • Asked whether a high positivity percentage was due to testing in correctional facilities and if it was concerning, Dr. Smith said the concern with a high positivity percentage is that you are missing cases. However, he said you do not worry as much that you are missing cases if there is a high percentage in a congregate setting like a nursing home or correctional facility.
  • Regarding the CDC report, Dr. Smith said everything changes so rapidly with COVID-19 that if you take a day off, the world has changed. Add to that language barriers and he recognizes confusion can result. He does believe the ADH message has been consistent and coherent. CDC may not have visited poultry sites as poultry facilities are regulated by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. CDC typically partners with the regulatory agencies in charge of specific facilities.

Stephanie Williams: Chief of State of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • ADH added a second contact tracing vendor: Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC). AFMC will begin work on July 20, adding 350 contact tracers, if their appropriation is approved by the legislative council next week. The first vendor, General Dynamics, is in the process of hiring additional contact tracers and has initiated contact tracing activities. As of last Thursday, General Dynamics has hired 83 staff and received 1,200 applications.

 

 

7/13/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 572 additional cases since yesterday, July 12, for a total of 28,939 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 572 cases, three were in correctional facilities and 569 were from the community.  There are 6,510 active cases, with 127 in nursing homes, 958 in correctional facilities, and 5,425 community cases.  There have been 22,106 recoveries.  Total deaths—323. There are 439 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 89 on ventilators.

 

There were 5,253 tests performed yesterday. There have been over 74,000 tests performed in July. The overall positivity rate is 7.5%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by saying kind words about former Senator David Pryor, who is hospitalized with COVID-19.
  • The Governor reiterated that masks provide Arkansans with the best ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while in public. That said, he has no plans currently to implement a statewide mask-wearing mandate. The Governor believes that education and encouragement are the most effective means to convince Arkansans to wear masks. He mentioned that several cities have mask-wearing ordinances. Specifically, he said that Little Rock has an ordinance, but cases are increasing in Little Rock. He contrasted that with Benton County, where cases are decreasing, but there is no mask ordinance. However, the state will continue to look at effective tools to encourage mask wearing. If cases continue to increase, the state may need to utilize new tools like in other states.
  • The positive cases continue to be driven by Northwest Arkansas, including Sebastian County, and Pulaski County, but are now largely spread across the state. The Governor showed a slide from July 11-13, which included Saturday with over 1,000 cases, and the highest concentrations were in the counties with the highest populations.
  • Regarding hospitalizations, the numbers in all of the public health regions are flat, but Northwest Arkansas has far and away more hospitalizations than any other public health region. The Governor said Arkansas still has adequate hospital capacity. He said UAMS clarified that they were not close to capacity solely due to COVID-19 cases, but due to COVID-19 cases in addition to non-COVID-19 cases.
  • The Governor indicated that when the school year begins, community spread will dictate how to respond to positive cases. Schools will not be in charge of contact tracing for positive cases among students, that duty will remain with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). The Governor has not seen a CDC memo referenced in the New York Times about COVID-19 spread in schools, but he knows that there is a risk associated with resuming school. That is why ADH and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) are preparing guidelines for the upcoming school year and working with educators and parents to refine the guidelines. He noted that there are risks associated with not resuming in-person education as well. The Governor would not be surprised if there are positive cases in schools after the school year resumes, but the key is responding appropriately when there are positive cases.
  • Asked about a logjam in testing at commercial labs, the Governor said he continues to look at ways to expand testing at ADH facilities. Regarding commercial labs, the Governor noted that he is one of the few voices calling for implementing the Defense Production Act (DPA) to help with testing supplies. Implementing the DPA could ensure that commercial labs can keep up with the demand as larger states increase their testing.
  • Regarding restaurants not complying with ADH directives, the Governor assured the reporter that ADH, with assistance from Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officers, are acting on complaints and violations they witness.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • While there was a substantial number of positive cases this weekend, Dr. Smith said a large number, close to 500, came from the Ouachita River Correctional Facility.
  • Responding to a question of why there would be a spike in cases due to the July 4 holiday now, Dr. Smith said the average incubation period is five to six days, and it can then take a couple more days for ADH to get the test results.
  • Asked about where positive cases are coming from, Dr. Smith said ADH is running an analysis twice a week. A relatively small number are coming from locations that reopened during the Phase II reopening in May.
  • In response to a question of why it was believed that cases did not originate from the protests that occurred in June but may have originated due to the July 4 holiday, Dr. Smith said there are two explanations. First, with the protests, they happened at different times, dates, and at different locations. Also, ADH asks during contact tracing whether individuals protested, and did not receive many positive indications. Also, with bars and restaurants, ADH enforcement officers can often go and see if there are compliance issues.
  • Dr. Smith noted that if individual hospitals reach capacity, they may need to look at curtailing non-essential procedures. That said, ADH does not want to currently impose new restrictions, as they know it impacts hospital economics.

 

 

7/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 751 additional cases since yesterday, July 9, for a total of 26,803 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 751 cases, 149 were in correctional facilities and 602 were from the community.  There are 5,847 active cases, with 123 in nursing homes, 584 in correctional facilities, and 5,140 community cases.  There have been 20,642 recoveries.  Total deaths—313. There are 402 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 84 on ventilators.

There were 5,212 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 48,525.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily COVID-19 press conference at the University of Arkansas Cossatot campus in DeQueen.
  • The Governor noted that the statewide COVID-19 growth rate from June 28-July 4 was 18.02%. The highest growth rate is no longer in Northwest Arkansas, but in Central Arkansas.
  • The Governor noted that commercial labs are taking too long and results need to be provided sooner. The average time period for collection to reporting results to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has been the following: March- 3.2 days; April- 1.6 days; May-1.7 days; June- 2.0 days; July- 2.5 days. He is not concerned about testing supply availability in Arkansas but is concerned about the national supply due to outbreaks in large states. There are six commercial labs that are outside of Arkansas, so there are pressure points in the testing chain. The Governor continues to call for President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act.
  • Asked about conspiracy theories that masks are not necessary, the Governor said those that believe them are in the extreme minority. He mentioned the recent poll which asked why individuals do not wear a mask. The reasons were varied, but those that mentioned a conspiracy theory was very low.
  • Regarding COVID-19 infections at poultry plants in Sevier County, where DeQueen is located, the Governor said he met with the manager of the Pilgrim’s Pride plant and was very impressed with their safety precautions.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The most cases yesterday were from Hot Spring County, 145, and were associated with the Ouachita River Correctional Facility. Asked what happened at the Ouachita River Correctional Facility, because all the inmates had previously been tested, Dr. Smith said that many inmates were negative when originally tested. However, they had been exposed to COVID-19, asymptomatic, and tested positive after being tested again.
  • Dr. Smith said no county has been hit as hard as Sevier County. There have been 788 cases In Sevier County. The positivity rate in Sevier County is 17.9%, compared to a statewide average of 7.2%.  2/3 of Sevier County cases are from the Latinx community, which makes up 1/3 of the population.
  • Asked about the CDC recommendations for widespread serial testing, Dr. Smith said ADH would pursue that strategy when able to. ADH already does serial testing in some congregate settings, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities.
  • Dr. Smith said utilizing data is a challenge in addressing COVID-19 because there are so many data points. As part of contact tracing, ADH always budgeted in data management and has been using data management since the very beginning. As ADH works to build out its contact tracing efforts, ADH hopes to get data in more quickly. ADH faces the same challenges as everywhere else.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Dr. Romero spoke in Spanish and provided a direct address to Sevier County’s Latinx population.

 

 

7/9/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 806 additional cases since yesterday, July 8, for a total of 26,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 806 cases, 110 were in correctional facilities and 696 were from the community. There are 5,571 active cases, with 131 in nursing homes, 444 in correctional facilities, and 5,176 community cases. There have been 19,992 recoveries. Total deaths—309. There are 394 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 82 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,734 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 43,313. The cumulative positivity rate is now 7.2%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.
 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held a press conference with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, and U.S. Representative French Hill. The Governor mentioned their working lunch, where they discussed Arkansas’s efforts to work on the future of law enforcement. The Governor indicated that General Barr committed the U.S. Department of Justice to filing a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, to attempt to overturn the case that struck down Arkansas’s work requirement, implemented as part of Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion.
  • General Barr met with law enforcement officials and officers this morning. He spoke highly of the efforts taking place in Arkansas regarding ensuring Arkansas law enforcement is as professional and receptive to the needs of the community as possible. He also spoke supportively of Arkansas potentially passing hate crimes legislation.
  • The Governor announced the start of school will be moved to the week of August 24, but no later than August 26. The decision was made after consulting with Secretary Johnny Key of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and communicating with educators and parents. This will provide school districts more time to ensure teachers are prepared and campuses are ready for students to return.
  • ADE and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) have prepared a response plan for what will occur if there are positive cases in schools. The response plan can be viewed here. There are three response levels: limited response, intermediate response, and critical response. The school district, in consultation with ADH and ADE, will make case-by-case determinations.
  • Asked about widespread testing of students, the Governor said there will not be systematic testing of students. Testing will be conducted on an as-needed basis.
  • ADH has set forth mask-wearing guidelines that provide flexibility for local school districts to determine mask-wearing guidelines. The school districts’ local plans allow for a balance between the ADH expertise, ADE broad guidelines, and flexibility for local school districts.
  • In response to a question about why schools were returning for in-person instruction when cases are higher now than in the spring, the Governor said there is more infrastructure for understanding the spread and experience dealing with COVID-19, so it is a totally different environment now than during the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Responding to a question about higher education, the Governor said he is not planning to encourage higher education to start later and has no plans for additional guidelines for higher education.
  • The Governor thinks it is too early to determine missteps associated with responding to COVID-19, in response to a reporter’s question. He knows that there is always room for improvement. He also mentioned that testing unavailability and supply chain issues were problems in the beginning, but that was out of the state’s control.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith showed a slide with the top 10 total active community cases by Arkansas cities. Springdale in Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock in Central Arkansas were the highest, with 641 and 414, respectively. Danville, with 96 active cases, has 397.8 cases per 10,000 residents, far exceeding the next closest city, Springdale, which has 79 cases per 10,000 residents.
  • Dr. Smith reiterated that all the guidelines and directives are based on three outcome-based goals for in-person education: you do not want kids getting sick at school, you do not want teachers getting sick at school, and you do not want kids or teachers spreading COVID-19 in their homes.
  • Responding to the question about the biggest mistake made responding to COVID-19, Dr. Smith said that while ADH made an intentional attempt to work with higher risk communities and made good progress to engage, he wishes ADH could have done more to help prevent transmission in those communities. He knows ADH has much stronger relationships now in higher risk communities.

Johnny Key: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • Secretary Key stated that typically schools begin the school year by August 13, but the Arkansas Code provides flexibility for a later start date. The reason for the date being pushed back is so that teachers and administrators can be fully prepared to meet the needs of students.
  • Secretary Key is confident many districts would be ready to go, but in an abundance of caution, it was determined it was best to move the start date back for schools. Preparing for the upcoming school year will require extensive professional development for blended learning.
  • The response plans will provide for a clear communication process so that school districts can work with ADH and ADE to determine the best course of action to respond to positive cases, based on analyzing the particular facts involved.
  • School districts are not required to submit plans on how they will prepare for the upcoming school year. ADE is strongly recommending mask-wearing, but not mandating it.
  • There is no statewide plan for a teacher shortage based on COVID-19 cases. Teacher illness policies are best addressed at the local level. Secretary Key has confidence that local districts can create appropriate policies.
  • Secretary Key said that no consideration has been given to closing schools after Thanksgiving, like higher education institutions are planning to do. However, it could depend on the response level for the school or school district.
  • Secretary Key said there is no state-level procedure for community notification of positive cases.
  • Secretary Key acknowledged that the expectation is that the later start date will not impact teacher contract days or contact days for students. He anticipates the end of the 2020-2021 school year being late May or early June.

 

 

7/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 734 additional cases since yesterday, July 7, for a total of 25,246 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 734 cases, 104 were in correctional facilities and 630 were from the community. There are 5,545 active cases, with 125 in nursing homes, 350 in correctional facilities, and 5,070 community cases. There have been 19,396 recoveries. Total deaths—305. There are 358 hospitalized patients with 79 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,567 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 38,579.
The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor did not attribute the increase in cases to specific locations or activities, but believed the cases were a result of spread through normal community activities.
  • Regarding a tweet from President Trump that the federal government would withhold funds if schools do not reopen this fall, the Governor believes Arkansas’s approach is consistent with in-person instruction. Arkansas will have in-person instruction blended with virtual learning if necessary.
  • Responding to a question about President Trump saying CDC guidelines for reopening schools are too strict, the Governor said Arkansas is informed by CDC guidelines, but makes decisions based on the uniqueness of Arkansas’s needs.
  • Asked about University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) modeling that continues to predict a large number of cases and hospitalizations in the fall, the Governor pointed out that the model appeared to be flattening as individuals followed public health guidance. He also noted that the UAMS model said that Arkansas would have sufficient hospital capacity during the peak, which is now expected to be October 30.
  • The Governor said the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is working with the state’s higher education institutions to implement testing and contact tracing programs with CARES Act funds. There will be cases, but the key is to be prepared to handle those cases.
  • The Governor is encouraged by data showing that 82% of those surveyed saying they wear masks. He interprets it as 82% of those polled wear masks some, but not all the time.
  • Regarding Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) enforcement officers inspecting bars and restaurants for compliance with ADH directives, the Governor said he has reviewed their information, and a surprisingly high number are complying
  • Tomorrow’s press conference will focus on education.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith showed a slide where Sevier and Yell Counties are the top counties on a cumulative rate of cases by population basis. The Governor’s Press Conference will be in DeQueen, in Sevier County, on Friday.
  • Asked about an outbreak at a summer camp called Camp Ozark, Dr. Smith said Camp Ozark shared that information with ADH, sent some infected campers and counselors home, and ultimately closed down. ADH supports and appreciates the decision.
  • Each college has different populations and capabilities, so ADH will work carefully with each higher education institution this fall.
  • Northwest Arkansas has proven that the curve could be flattened without rolling back restriction easing.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force (AERTF)

  • Mr. Walton provided a series of slides with an overview of a statewide survey performed last week, stratified by county, broadly focused on the adult population from the 2019 census. The following is an overview:
    • 42% believe COVID-19 is the most important issue facing Arkansas, while 18% said the economy.
    • 82% said they wear PPE like a mask in public places.
    • At least 78% of every age group said they wear a mask in public, other than those 18-24. 67% of those 18-24 reported wearing a mask in public.
    • 55% reported preferring a regional or local approach to addressing COVID-19, based on the areas of the state where the cases of COVID-19 are most concentrated. 35% wanted a statewide approach.
    • 58% said their workplace was following the proper protocols in response to COVID-19, and 33% said it was inapplicable to them.
    • 54% reported being opposed to large events returning this fall, while 37% were in favor. 37% were strongly opposed and 19% were strongly supportive.
    • Of the 43% polled with kids, 59% said they were likely to send their kids back to school for in-person learning and 32% said it was unlikely. 49% were very likely and 23% said it was very unlikely.
    • 55% reported comfort with in-person activities such as dining or going to a gym, while 41% reported they were uncomfortable. 32% are very comfortable and 22% are very uncomfortable.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • In response to a question about reports of long waits for tests in Washington County, Dr. Romero said Washington County’s Public Health facility has more capacity currently than the local hospital. It is operating from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday-Friday, and can process a significant number of specimens.

 

 

7/7/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 259 additional cases since yesterday, July 6, for a total of 24,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 259 cases, 23 were in correctional facilities and 236 were from the community. There are 5,486 active cases, with 117 in nursing homes, 273 in correctional facilities, and 5,096 community cases. There have been 18,725 recoveries. Total deaths—301. There are 369 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 83 on ventilators.

 

There were 3,366 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 34,012.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Cases continue to be driven by Washington and Benton Counties in Northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County in Central Arkansas.
  • The Governor showed a slide with the COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, broken down by southern states. Arkansas was behind only Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama with approximately 800 cases per 100,000 residents. The Governor showed another slide with the COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents, broken down by southern states. Arkansas was behind only Louisiana and Tennessee, with approximately 12,000 tests per 100,000 residents. Arkansas was relatively better off on positivity percentage, behind five other southern states, at an approximately 6.8% positivity rate.
  • Asked about hospital capacity, the Governor said there has been a large increase in hospitalizations, but the system is not stressed or close to capacity.
  • Regarding a call Secretary DeVos of the US Department of Education had with governors this morning, where she said schools needed to be fully operational this fall, the Governor said he was not on the call when that statement was made. He believes that Arkansas’s blend of classroom instruction with virtual education would be compliant. He fully expects to continue Arkansas’s Ready for Learning plan.
  • In response to a question about whether the Governor believed cases had gone down because of the decrease in testing, the Governor said he was not prepared to say that, but he is tempering his enthusiasm about the lower case count until he sees a trend of lower cases.
  • Asked about the May data-breach associated with the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) portal, the Governor said he received a report from the forensic investigators but has not received an update from the FBI and expects it could take a while. He knows the portal is working and secure.
  • Regarding whether contact tracing has been effective, based on yesterday’s discussion of individuals not responding to calls, the Governor believes it has been based on the success in Northwest Arkansas. The Governor is not sure there is a better way. Even if you knocked on people’s doors, they still might not get a response, and then you must worry about transmittal issues.
  • The Governor believes there is sufficient demand for testing to get to 200,000 tests in July. There are supply chain issues and some testing facilities may be busier than others, but the state will continue to try to overcome those barriers.
  • Asked about online business fraud, the Governor said the Attorney General (AG) has consumer protection authority. The AG has been aggressive in trying to raise awareness of the issue and assist consumers who may have been taken advantage of.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith showed a slide with the numbers of cumulative cases by the 10 counties with the highest totals. The highest were Washington and Benton Counties, which are plateauing. Pulaski County was third and is currently rising.
  • Regarding the large increase in hospitalizations, the largest numbers came from Pulaski County, but they have increased statewide.
  • Dr. Smith reported that the ADH is working with the Arkansas Municipal League to provide a report of the number of cases by city.
  • The CDC is wrapping up their work in Northwest Arkansas and Dr. Smith expects to receive a final report with recommendations tomorrow afternoon. He has been reviewing a draft report.
  • Dr. Smith believes the decrease in testing is due to the long holiday weekend. He believes there is strong demand for testing, as 700 tests were collected at public health facilities yesterday. ADH is developing a strategy for retesting at nursing homes and proactively testing at correctional facilities. There may be a perception in Pulaski County that people do not feel like they need to get tested, but that needs to be changed.
  • Dr. Smith does not know the ages of those hospitalized since yesterday, and whether the ages are skewing younger, due to the increase in cases associated with younger Arkansans. Dr. Smith did note that five of the nine deaths yesterday were from those younger than 65.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  •  Mr. Preston noted that there have been 43,000 approved Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) applications and $330 million dispersed. UI claims are leveling off from their peak of 122,522 on May 9 with 97,966 active cases. The state is heading in the right direction on first time claims as well. The peak was approximately 62,000 new claims, and now it has flattened out to approximately 10,000 a week.
  • The Department of Workforce Services (DWS) has seen an uptick in fraudulent activity, which is also happening nationwide. Bad actors are using victims’ personal information to file UI claims in the victim’s name. When there is suspected fraud, DWS has to lockdown the account where fraud is suspected. DWS has seen 14,000 suspected fraudulent claims associated with PUA and 6,000 with PI. Mr. Preston does not have a dollar amount of the suspected fraud. When there is suspected fraudulent activity, the account is flagged leading to an investigation. When the investigation clears up the matter, the funds can be released. DWS has hired 14 new employees to help with investigations.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Asked why some buildings at the Conway Human Development Center do not have cases, but family may not visit, Dr. Romero stated that CDC guidelines require 28 days without a positive case. He elaborated that it is still a congregate setting, all the buildings are considered one facility. There was an outbreak recently that has been brought under control.

 

 

7/6/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 439 additional cases since yesterday, July 5, for a total of 24,253 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 439 cases, eight were in correctional facilities and 431 were from the community.  There are 6,127 active cases, with 117 in nursing homes, 456 in correctional facilities, and 5,554 community cases.  There have been 17,834 recoveries.  Total deaths—292. There are 337 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 81 on ventilators.

 

There were 3,615 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 30,646. The new July goal is 200,000 tests performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Cases continue to be driven by Washington and Benton Counties in Northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County in Central Arkansas.
  • The state’s contact tracing contract was awarded to General Dynamics. The one-year contract to hire 350 contact tracers is worth approximately $20 million and may be extended. The contact tracers are expected to start this week. The state expects to request an additional $20 million to hire 350 more contact tracers, bringing the total to close to 1,000 contact tracers total. If the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) needs more contact tracers in the future, then the state will address that issue then. This is a big undertaking for the ADH.
  • The Governor expressed concern over supply chain issues that are preventing COVID-19 tests from being processed more quickly in commercial labs.  He brought the issue up with the White House Coronavirus Task Force this morning and noted invoking the Defense Production Act could fix the issue.
  • Responding to a question about bad behavior during the Independence Day weekend, the Governor said that while the focus is on bad actors, it is important to remember that so many worked hard to protect themselves and others. Asked about a restaurant, Brewskis, being shut down by ADH, he said if establishments will not comply with ADH’s directives, then ADH has no choice but to close the establishment.
  • Asked if there were COVID-19 clusters in churches, the Governor said he would not say there are case clusters at churches. He reinforced that the information ADH promulgated was that infected individuals reported attending a church service, not that they were infected at a church.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • There has now been at least one case in all 75 counties.
  • Central Arkansas is seeing steady increases in cases, which is concerning because of population density. Additionally, ADH is not able to take a targeted approach as they were in Northwest Arkansas where they identified case clusters associated with certain groups or places.
  • Dr. Smith said labs are struggling to get the reagents to do the needed testing.
  • Asked how ADH ensures quarantine compliance, Dr. Smith said that they do not have the personnel to have staff personally ensure compliance, but if necessary, they can get an Order of Quarantine. ADH encourages those infected to enroll in a software program that gives ADH visibility into their symptoms and how they are progressing with the virus.
  • There are no expanding clusters currently associated with churches.
  • Asked about cases in the Miller County Jail, Dr. Smith said ADH is aware and testing all inmates and staff. Of 300 tested, around 90 tested positive. While there is always a risk of community spread, they have not experienced that in Miller County.
  • Dr. Smith does not think ADH was behind in contact tracing, but said he believes additional personnel would be helpful with contacting the infected individuals’ contacts.

Stephanie Williams: Arkansas Department of Health Chief of Staff

  • Ms. Williams noted that one issue with contact tracing is it often takes multiple tries to reach an infected individual because they do not respond. The number that calls an infected individual or contact is 877-272-6819. The contact tracer will generally know where you have been, who you have had contact with, and will not ask for money.
  • Applicants can apply to be contact tracers on General Dynamics’ website.
  • It typically takes no more than two days before a contact tracer contacts an infected individual, after ADH is notified of the positive case. ADH prioritizes health care workers.
  • A case investigation typically is two to three contacts, requiring 45 minutes to one hour of time per contact.

 

 

7/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 420 additional cases since yesterday, June 30, for a total of 21,197 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 420 cases, 33 were in correctional facilities and 387 were from the community.  There are 5,757 active cases, with 153 in nursing homes, 525 in correctional facilities, and 5,079 community cases.  There have been 15,163 recoveries.  Total deaths—277. There are 275 hospitalized patients, with 72 on ventilators.

 

There were 7,993 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 180,595, exceeding the goal not only for June but for July. There is an overall positivity rate of 6.7%.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by holding a football and a mask, stating that if the state wants football, then it needs to concentrate on wearing masks now to reduce the number of cases.
  • Lee County has the most cases, appearing to be driven by a correctional facility located there.
  • The Governor showed seven-day rolling average slides from the 10 largest counties, and they were all trending downward or flat.
  • The National Guard training at Ft. Chaffee scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled. It was determined that federal rules do not allow for all of the almost 4,000 Guardsman to be tested for COVID-19. It will not stop the National Guard training, the Guardsman will just not travel to Ft. Chaffee for the training.
  • Asked whether fraudulent unemployment claims were a big issue, the Governor said the Arkansas Department of Commerce is actively reviewing cases and payments are not made when there is an indication of fraud.  Cases may also be referred to prosecutors.
  • Regarding an NAACP request for hospital and testing supplies in East Arkansas, the Governor said he has discussed the issue with Dr. Smith, and they will continue to look at the issue and work with local officials to determine needs. Typically, requests such as these are made by local elected officials, hospitals, or more formal public health channels.
  • In response to a question about Goldman Sachs’ estimate that mask-wearing mandates could increase GDP by 5%, the Governor said that it is true that measures like mask-wearing mandates and shelter in place orders may reduce the spread of COVID-19, but he has to balance what is true with what is achievable and enforceable.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith brought up several new health concerns associated with COVID-19: blood clots, neurological complications such as strokes, and heart disease. While these have not been common, he wants to reinforce that COVID-19 can lead to serious, permanent health challenges. The majority of recoveries have come back with their pre-COVID-19 state of health, and they are still classified as recovered, even if they have permanent health issues due to COVID-19. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) does not have good data on how many recoveries have post-COVID-19 health concerns, but that is likely something that will be explored not only in Arkansas but elsewhere.
  • Of the 1,300 ever hospitalized with COVID-19:
    • 860 or 66.2%: Discharged;
    • 263 or 20.2%: Still hospitalized; and,
    • 177 or 13.6%: Died
  • Of the 203 COVID-19 patients ever on a ventilator:
    • 94 or 46.3%: Died;
    • 57 or 28.1%: Taken off a ventilator; and,
    • 52 or 25.6%: Still on a ventilator.
  • Not all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in hospitals: 2/3 of the deaths have occurred in nursing homes.
  • In response to a question about nursing homes in Saline County reporting that they have not heard from ADH in order to reopen, Dr. Smith stated they should contact the ADH or the Arkansas Health Care Association if they have concerns. If a nursing home has a positive test within 28 days, they cannot reopen.

Major General Kendall Penn: Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard

  • According to General Penn, federal rules require those in Annual Training drill status cannot be tested unless they are symptomatic. As a result, General Penn recommended cancelation of the Ft. Chaffee training. The issue was discovered when the Arkansas National Guard tried to purchase testing kits with federal funds. The troops will train at their local armories, where the troops are more geographically homogenous, utilizing public health guidance. Asked if this change will impact readiness, General Penn said it would not. He reported that the scheduled training was a steppingstone and building block for combat training skills that are needed for a deployment status the 39th Infantry Brigade will be in next summer. The Army may make a different determination based on the training that can actually be accomplished.

 

 

6/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 520 additional cases since yesterday, June 29, for a total of 20,777 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 520 cases, 18 were in correctional facilities and 502 were from the community. There are 5,976 active cases, a new peak, with 120 in nursing homes, 548 in correctional facilities, and 5,308 community cases. There have been 14,531 recoveries. Total deaths—270. There are 290 hospitalized patients, with 67 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,048 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 171,944. There is an overall positivity rate of 6.8%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The state ended the fiscal year $360 million ahead of where the state thought it would be, after revising the budget forecast downward this spring. Luckily, the economy did not fall as drastically as feared. The Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA) will be funded, including $121 million to the public-school fund and fully funding higher education, restoring $42.4 million. The revenue forecast was revised to $5.624 billion. Category B in the RSA will be funded. $72.2 million will be restored to the Medicaid Trust Fund (MTF), bringing its balance to $255 million. The MTF was reduced during the year and its restoration will bring its balance back to where it started at the beginning of the fiscal year. There is $225 million in unallocated reserves, which will stay in place until the legislature determines what to do with the funds. There is $152 million in the state’s long-term reserve fund.
  • The Governor does not anticipate changing the revenue forecast for FY21, as July could be a down month, the future remains uncertain. It appears many individuals paid their personal income taxes before the July 15 deadline.
  • The Governor approved a 2.2% merit pay increase for state employees.
  • The Governor announced that Wendy Kelley, Secretary of the Department of Corrections resigned yesterday to spend more time with her family. It surprised the Governor, but he appreciated all her hard work and commitment to the organization, its employees, and inmates.
  • Asked about the Little Rock School District requiring masks in schools, the Governor noted school districts have the flexibility to address their local needs if they follow the state guidelines. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas department of Education (ADE) prepared the guidelines: Arkansas Ready to Learn. He wants the school districts working with the individual principals and parents. Anything required by the ADE will be in partnership with ADH.
  • Regarding whether he would ever mandate mask-wearing, the Governor said he would consider it if it was supported by the science. He continues to review the data, and for many reasons, he does not think a mask-wearing mandate is needed now. He continues to talk with other Governors and most do not have a statewide mask-wearing mandate. While some states such as New York and Illinois are seeing positive trends associated with mask-wearing mandates, others, like California, are not.
  • In response to a question about the Washington County Coroner expressing concern about reopening nursing homes, the Governor said if the nursing homes follow the ADH and CDC guidelines, they can open with restrictions. The CDC guidelines require 28 days without a positive case. A majority of facilities will be allowed to reopen, but a significant number will not be able to reopen immediately.
  • Asked about whether the state’s medical marijuana commission should approve additional licenses, the Governor said if there is a need for greater supply, then there should be additional licenses.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The cases were driven by Washington County with 152 and Pulaski County with 118. 44% of the Pulaski County cases were from Little Rock and 30% from Wrightsville, which is likely due to the correctional facility in that community. The 18-25 age group is the leading age group for COVID-19 cases.
  • Testing at the states’ long-term care facilities (LTCF) is mostly complete, with more than 40,000 staff and resident tests performed. 362 LTCF have been tested, with 59 showing a positive case. The CDC guidelines requiring a 28 day wait for reopening after a positive case is to provide consistency. A second CDC team will be coming to Arkansas to work on cases in nursing homes and to help provide information on how COVID-19 spreads in nursing homes.
  • Speaking of the fourth of July and large venue plans, Dr. Smith noted that a plan is only as good as its implementation. He encouraged everyone to enjoy themselves but be safe.
  • Regarding COVID-19 transmittal in schools, it is still uncertain how it occurs. The research is beginning to demonstrate that kids are not the same as adults. Dr. Jose Romero is monitoring these findings and will apply them to the school setting. Dr. Smith noted that kids are often more adaptable than adults, so we may find that mask-wearing is easier for them than adults.
  • With approximately 25% of positive cases, contact tracers have been unable to link the case to a specific exposure source.
  • ADH has selected their first choice for the contact tracer procurement and hope to have them started as soon as this week.

 

 

6/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 439 additional cases since yesterday, June 28, for a total of 20,257 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 439 cases, 21 were in correctional facilities and 418 were from the community.  There are 5,926 active cases, with 116 in nursing homes, 583 in correctional facilities, and 5,227 community cases.  There have been 14,066 recoveries.  Total deaths—265. There are 300 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 63 on ventilators.

 

There were 4,939 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 167,168.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced the state has received an additional 50,000 N95 masks.
  • The Governor participated in a conference call with the Vice President and other Governors regarding how to expand testing in hotspots and enhance compliance with public health guidance such as social distancing.
  • While Washington County leads the state in cases, the Governor said they are seeing progress due to mask-wearing, social distancing, contact tracing, and increased testing. Concerns are emerging about Central Arkansas, which is the densest area of the state, now that Pulaski County had the second most cases.
  • The Governor showed a slide of per capita testing for the Southern states, from April-June.  Arkansas has gone from close to the bottom to third in per capita testing, close to 10,000 per 100,000 residents.
  • Asked about special measures for July 4 weekend, the Governor said that the main measure will be Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) enforcement officers who will be able to report violations of Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) directives to the ADH.
  • Regarding people not behaving well, the Governor brought up social media posts with parties at bars and restaurants where there was no social distancing or mask-wearing. He said this was a concern, and he wants to remind people to do the responsible thing.
  • In regard to his weekend appearance on ABC, where he expressed some openness for moving Confederate monuments on State Capitol grounds, he said that is a personal opinion, but it will require the legislature to make it happen. His priority would be the adoption of a hate crimes statute, providing for enhanced sentencing for those convicted of a hate crime.
  • In response to a question about easing restrictions, the Governor said he and Dr. Smith are focused on decreasing cases, whether they have the resources needed, and how to best encourage the state to do the right thing. When the time comes, they will ease restrictions, looking at several factors.
  • Regarding his invocation of the Defense Production Act for testing supplies, the Governor said he did have concerns that Arkansas might have to compete with bigger states for testing supplies. He knows that looking ahead, the country must be mobilized to have the testing production needed for an even more aggressive testing program.
  • Asked about increased cases, the Governor thinks it may have to do with complacency.
  • The Governor does believe the state is in a better place than it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  Mask-wearing is more prevalent than in the past, and though there has been a long learning curve, their prevalence has greatly increased.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Asked about churches who were caught off-guard by the release of information regarding their facility being a site of COVID-19 cases, he said his intention was to highlight the issue that churches have been the sites of where COVID-19 patients had visited, not that they were infected at a church. There have only been a handful of clusters associated with churches, but if additional venues have clusters, they will let the public know, as they have for poultry processing plants and correctional facilities.
  • There have been COVID-19 cases at ADH, but there has not been evidence of transmission from ADH to the community.
  • Asked about increased testing, Dr. Smith stated that when commercial labs get backlogged, not just because of demand in Arkansas but other states, it causes testing to go down in Arkansas. There needs to be increased testing capacity in hospitals, but they are limited by the available re-agents.  Until there is a good supply chain, hospital testing will be limited.
  • Regarding what ADH is looking for in contact tracers, Dr. Smith said it is the ability to learn and report information accurately, along with good communication skills. They need some contact tracers with a medical background and some with specific linguistic skills, such as Spanish and Marshallese, as well. Depending on background and ability to learn quickly, it can take a week of training.
  • ADH does not have a perfect way to gather whether individuals were in non-compliance with ADH guidelines when infected. ADH is more concerned with ensuring there is no additional transmission, versus assigning blame.

 

 

6/26/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 678 additional cases since yesterday, June 25, for a total of 18,740 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 678 cases, nine were in correctional facilities and 669 were from the community, the largest day yet for community cases. There are 5,707 active cases, with 108 in nursing homes, 621 in correctional facilities, and 4,978 community cases. There have been 12,784 recoveries. Total deaths—249. There are 284 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 63 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,897 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 148,380.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Current Hospitalizations for COVID-19 Positive Cases in Arkansas by Public Health Region:
    • Northwest: 123 (43.3%)
    • Northeast: 28 (9.9%)
    • Central: 105 (37%)
    • Southwest: 23 (8.1%)
    • Southeast: 5 (1.8%)
  • Current ICU Hospitalizations for COVID-19 Positive Cases in Arkansas by Public Health Region:
    • Northwest: 58 (44.6%)
    • Northeast: 18 (13.8%)
    • Central: 43 (33.1%)
    • Southwest: 9 (6.9%)
    • Southeast: 2 (1.5%)
  • Number of ICU Beds Available for COVID-19 Positive Cases in Arkansas by Public Health Region:
    • Northwest: 42
    • Northeast: 32
    • Central: 60
    • Southwest: 18
    • Southeast: 18
  • In the 14 days prior to diagnosis, active COVID-19 cases visited the following types of businesses.
    • Restaurants: 114 (2%)
    • Barbershops: 32 (.6%)
    • Church: 95 (2%)
    • Daycare: 16 (.3%)
    • Gym: 17 (.3%)
    • Health and Wellness: 97 (2%)
    • Hotel or motel: 20 (.4%)
  • The Governor noted that just because you went to a location, does not mean you caught it there. While not included in his graph, less than 2% reported going to a bar.
  • The Governor noted clusters associated with churches. He said 98% of churches have followed the guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), but there have been instances where the guidance has not been followed. The Governor has wanted to respect the separation of church and state, so he has avoided directives focused at churches. If the guidance has not been followed, ADH has called church leaders and addressed it in that fashion.
  • The Governor reported that Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) officers have been engaged to direct violations to the ADH. ABC officers are out in the field frequently and will be a good resource to ensure compliance.
  • If the data shows outbreaks associated with bars, then he could take action like what is being done in Texas and Florida.
  • Asked about a City of Little Rock Ordinance on mask-wearing, the Governor said it was a Proclamation. He interpreted it as consistent and supportive of the state guidance, and an encouragement to wear a mask.
  • Regarding a question about business owners who feel as though requiring masks makes them look like the bad guy, the Governor believes the state approach is the right approach. He hopes the community will comply because it is the right thing to do.
  • Secretary of State John Thurston has announced that voters can obtain an absentee ballot if they are unavoidably absent, which would include concern about catching COVID-19 by going to the polling site. The Governor said that interpretation may solve the problem as it pertains to no-excuse absentee balloting, but he will have further conversations on the matter.
  • Asked again about the National Guard training at Ft. Chaffee, the Governor said the training was very important so he supported the training. In addition to PPE, soldiers will be placed in units so as not to be in contact with other units to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
  • The Governor disagrees with Dr. Fauci’s statement that contact tracing is not going well, because in Arkansas he believes it is. It can be improved, hence the state hiring more contact tracers.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The original Phase I restrictions were important but the current targeted approach is what is needed now. The state is not seeing case clusters, other than in poultry processing facilities and churches. However, ADH is seeing a decrease in poultry processing facility cases, as the implementation of the public health guidance is disrupting the chains of transmission.
  • Regarding places of worship, when ADH has found that they are in noncompliance with ADH guidance, many have temporarily stopped services or worked with ADH to implement the ADH guidelines. It has been worthwhile to implement guidelines, because even if there has been one case, they have not seen additional spread.
  • Asked about additional resources for testing in correctional facilities and nursing homes, Dr. Smith said one new aspect is working to provide the results electronically, in addition to scaled up testing capacity, so results can be obtained more quickly.
  • ADH is considering breaking the case totals to the city level. Some cities are concerned that their residents are not taking it seriously because they do not think there are cases in their city. ADH just wants to make sure they get it right and do not compromise privacy rights.
  • Regarding the Sebastian County cases, Dr. Smith said the median age is 31, which is younger than the state average.
The Governor’s Daily Press Conferences can be watched here.

 

 

6/25/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 687 additional cases since yesterday, June 24, for a total of 18,062 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 687 cases, 168 were in correctional facilities and 519 were from the community. There are 5,695 active cases, with 104 in nursing homes, 841 in correctional facilities, and 4,750 community cases. There have been 12,127 recoveries. Total deaths—242. There are 284 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 66 on ventilators.
There were 6,652 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 141,515. There is an overall positivity rate of 6.5%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The seven-day rolling average shows cases decreasing overall in Northwest Arkansas. The Governor said that is because the community is taking the public health guidance seriously, and Dr. Smith’s strategy is working.
  • The Governor was asked why Washington County is testing less people per 10,000 than the rest of the state, when Washington County has the same testing availability. The Governor had no specific explanation, other than perhaps there are concerns from some residents about the perceived cost of testing. The percentage is significantly lower than neighboring Benton County, and Washington County had 51 more cases than Benton County yesterday.
  • Asked about Texas pausing its reopenings, the Governor said that Texas has opened to a greater capacity than Arkansas, and that Arkansas has paused its reopening as well. For instance, Texas allows for 3/4 capacity at restaurants, while Arkansas allows 2/3 capacity at restaurants. The Governor noted that most states have state-specific reopenings versus strictly following the White House’s guidance on reopening.
  • In response to a question about mask-wearing ordinances, the Governor said they can be helpful without violating the state’s directive. He mentioned one city passing a resolution on mask-wearing that does not impose a civil penalty.
  • Asked about some county officials saying they need to plan for November elections before August 1, the Governor’s deadline for planning for the November elections, the Governor indicated he has not heard that in his conversations but is open to their suggestions.
  • The Governor noted the federal government has primary responsibility for ensuring the health of the 4,300 National Guard members attending exercises at Ft. Chaffee, near Ft. Smith. The National Guard Bureau sent their protocols to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) for review.
  • The Governor does not view lockdowns as having been successful long-term in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in other states. While a lockdown can reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Governor does not think lockdowns are the right call because of the human harm caused by mass unemployment. The right balance is emphasizing the two messages: (1) following the strategy of social distancing, mask-wearing, mass testing, and quarantining; and (2) the necessity of personal responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Asked about the analogy between seatbelt wearing and mask-wearing, the Governor acknowledged there was some merit to the argument, but reminded the audience that it took years and years of resistance before seatbelt wearing became accepted by the broad public. The Governor thinks Arkansans are listening to his message, but he also knows moving too aggressively can cause resistance and less public acceptance of mask-wearing.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Responding to the question about a lower level of testing in Washington County, but a higher positivity rate, Dr. Smith noted that it is probably due to the testing of higher risk individuals or those that are symptomatic versus a broader spectrum of the population. He believes that the curve is being flattened in Benton and Washington Counties.
  • A cluster of cases in Lonoke County is associated with a training academy.
  • ADH is investigating new outbreaks in correctional facilities, and noted that previous cases in a correctional facility do not make the facility immune from another outbreak. A pre-symptomatic inmate who tests negative initially can still spread the virus to other inmates.
  • The CDC has not provided any recommendations to ADH at this point, but Dr. Smith looks forward to reviewing their recommendations when they conclude their work.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Dr. Romero reviewed the plans sent to the state by the National Guard Bureau, and found that they have good isolation procedures and meet cohorting needs.

 

 

6/24/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 697 additional cases since yesterday, June 23, for a total of 17,375 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 697 cases, 43 were in correctional facilities and 654 from the community. There are 5,567 active cases, with 100 in nursing homes, 819 in correctional facilities, and 4,648 community cases. There have been 11,568 recoveries. Total deaths—240. There are 267 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 58 on ventilators.

 

There were 6,654 tests performed yesterday, bringing the total tests for the month to 132,774.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor has directed the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to double the number of contract tracers. While there is not a backlog of cases, ADH is beginning to experience capacity challenges due to the continued large number of COVID-19 cases. There is currently an outstanding procurement for 350 contact tracers, but the Governor wants to add 350 more. This is in addition to the 200 ADH workers currently conducting contact tracing. An additional 350 tracers would cost $22 milion, and the Governor would like to have the contact tracers paid for by CARES Act funding and approved by the CARES Act Steering Committee and the Arkansas Legislative Council. The Governor expects to have the first 350 contact tracers working by mid-July, but it is hard to predict the timeline for the next 350 contact tracers.
  • The July goal for testing is 180,000 tests, which would be 6% of the population. There will be three surge testing events in Northwest Arkansas in the coming weeks.
  • The Governor noted that the cases today were not impacted as heavily by cases in Northwest Arkansas, but new counties that are experiencing an increase in cases. Hot Spring County had 168 cases, driven by cases at the Ouachita River Correctional Facility.
  • Asked about states such as Connecticut and New York putting Arkansas on a list of travel hotspots requiring quarantining, the Governor said Arkansas has work to do to reduce its cases, advising that he has not seen the list. He does not know how other states are interpreting the numbers, but it is inconsistent with ADH’s data. Also, the Governor does not know if it is effective to isolate locations for travel restrictions. He noted that some locations, like California, had extensive restrictions and isolation requirements, and they are seeing an increase in cases. It appears to be a matter of timing for when COVID-19 hits each state. However, as you travel, you must be careful.
  • Asked why Arkansas’s cases were growing so fast, the Governor thought a large percentage were coming from specific populations that work in certain industries, which is a reason why the CDC is in Northwest Arkansas. Poultry facilities in Northwest Arkansas are a vital part of the supply chain, and the facilities are in compliance with ADH requirements. They continue to test workers and perform contact tracing, and are beginning to see a decline in cases within poultry processing facilities.
  • Regarding whether Arkansas was just weathering the storm, the Governor stated that Arkansas was implementing a strategy, not just weathering the storm. He said the strategy is working, as cases are leveling off in Northwest Arkansas.
  • In response to a question about a lawsuit requesting the state to implement no-excuse absentee ballots for November due to COVID-19, the Governor stated he has reached out to counties and the State Election Commission to get their thoughts and concerns. He will make a decision, with their guidance, before August 1. This decision date will provide adequate time for them to prepare and make adjustments as needed.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The 350 contact tracers currently being procured was based on ADH needs associated with 1,000 active cases, but there are currently over 5,000 active cases.
  • Dr. Smith said the ultimate game plan is for a COVID-19 vaccine to be developed and provided to the public. He knows one potential vaccine is going into a Phase III clinical trial in July. He said ADH’s Dr. Romero is chairing a CDC Advisory Committee today, where the Committee is discussing a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Based on 2.8 contacts per active case, approximately 15,000 Arkansans should currently be in quarantine.
  • Dr. Smith acknowledged that the July goal of 180,000 is a lot of tests, but the state has shown it is capable of testing 6,000 a day. He said they are in good shape with supplies, but testing has been a challenge; just when you think you have one problem solved, another one pops up.

 

 

6/23/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 595 additional cases since yesterday, June 22, for a total of 16,678 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 595 additional cases, 212 were from correctional facilities and 383 from the community. There are 5,221 active cases. Of those 5,221 cases, 103 are from nursing homes, 779 from correctional facilities, and 4,339 from the community, which is a new peak. There have been 11,220 recoveries. Total deaths—237. There are 248 hospitalized patients, another new peak, with 57 on ventilators.

 

5,344 tests were performed yesterday bringing the total tests performed in June to 126,120.

 

The chart below reflects Arkansas’s  COVID-19 cases compared to testing in the state. The blue line is the seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day. This graph continues to show significant similarity in the two trend lines.
The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor was in Mountain Home for his Daily Press Conference. He noted that while Baxter County has very few cases, local officials understand they may not be immune in the future. The Governor cannot predict whether Baxter County will see an increase in cases, but local citizens should prepare for that possibility by being cautious and smart. Local hospitals are prepared for additional cases, but may need additional resources for testing and hospitalizations in the future.
  • The Governor discussed the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) model, which is predicting a peak of 133,000 total cases and 3,300 hospitalizations on September 30. The goal is to change the trajectory by doing massive amounts of testing, contact tracing and quarantining for those that are infected. Everyone has a role to play.
  • The state continues to build capacity for ICU beds and ventilators to prepare for the possibility of increased hospitalizations. There is a great partnership among hospitals that coordinate among themselves to ensure that no one hospital becomes overwhelmed.
  • Asked about how much say local educators will have regarding schooling in the fall, the Governor said that the state has provided a roadmap based on the principle that on-site instruction is the starting point, with blended learning for those who need virtual instruction. The state wants to provide flexibility for local school districts to make adjustments if they deem it necessary.
  • Regarding whether he is worried about an increase in cases due to the July 4 holiday, the Governor said there can be an increase in COVID-19 cases following large group activities. A number of cities have canceled mass gatherings, but he cautioned against individuals having a block party resulting in a spike in cases.
  • In response to a question about potential hate crime legislation, the Governor noted that he has previously expressed support for hate crime legislation that provides enhanced penalties for those convicted of committing a crime due to race. If the legislation is consistent with that premise, he would support and sign it into law if passed. He applauds the effort.
  • Asked if the state is doing everything it can to respond to COVID-19, the Governor said yes. If there is anything else the state could be doing, they would look at ways to accomplish it.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The correctional facility cases are primarily driven by cases in the Benton County Jail and the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern.
  • Dr. Smith noted that Baxter County has a 1% positivity rate for COVID-19, versus an 8.7% positivity rate for Northwest Arkansas, the public health region where Baxter County is located.
  • Though the UAMS predictive model is concerning, it can be mitigated through protective measures such as social distancing, hand washing, and mask-wearing.
  • Asked about the 4th of July, Dr. Smith said if we haven’t learned anything from what occurred after Memorial Day, then we can expect to see an increase in cases after the holiday. People know what they need to do, but also be aware that the chain of transmission can often lead to someone other than themselves being hospitalized or passing away.
  • The CDC is spending more time in Northwest Arkansas than they normally would. Each day is mapped out. Today, the team is spending time working on preparing focus groups for finding better ways to communicate with minority communities. Also, the CDC is conducting an in-depth analysis of household transmission, which is very challenging.

 

 

6/22/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 522 additional cases since yesterday, June 21, for a total of 16,083 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 5,063 active cases. Of those 5,063 cases, 106 are from nursing homes, 642 from correctional facilities, and 4,315 from the community. There have been 10,793 recoveries. Total deaths—184. There are 227 hospitalized patients, with 61 on ventilators.

 

7,049 tests were performed yesterday. 120,053 tests have been performed, exceeding the June goal of 120,000. There is an overall positivity rate of 6.3%. The Governor will be announcing a July testing goal soon.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor met with Troy Wells, CEO of Baptist Health; Cam Patterson, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS); and Chad Aduddell, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI)-St. Vincent regarding hospital capacity. It is hard to compare hospital capacity now versus two months ago, because there were no elective procedures from the middle of March to early May. The hospital capacity statewide is in good shape, although Northwest Arkansas’s capacity is tight.
  • 2,552, or 28.6%, of the state’s 8,917 hospital beds are available. 222, or 22.3%, of the state’s 970 ICU beds are available. 583, or 65.2%, of the state’s 894 ventilators are available.
  • Asked about President Trump’s comments about slowing down testing, the Governor said Arkansas is not backing off testing, and wants to test more, even if it means more positive tests. On a call today with the Vice President, the Governor said the Vice President reiterated the federal government was focused on testing and delivering testing supplies to states. It is clear that the national policy is to expand testing.
  • Regarding China announcing they would not buy poultry from a Tyson plant in Springdale, Arkansas, the Governor said those actions are very troubling and unreasonable, as the products are not a health risk. He doesn’t know if they are playing politics, but it is not helpful. He has seen the efforts poultry companies have made to keep the plants safe, but recognizes that they can’t control workers when they leave work.
  • In response to a question about mask-wearing, the Governor said the more mask-wearing the better. He began wearing one when the CDC recommended it, set state-wide guidelines, and encouraged mask-wearing since day one.
  • Tomorrow’s press conference will be held in Mountain Home.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Age breakdown of COVID-19 cases in last 14 days:
    • Under 18: 13%;
    • 18-24: 14%;
    • 25-44: 37%;
    • 44-64: 26%;
    • 65+: 10%
  • Dr. Smith found the number of available ventilators encouraging, as it is hard to scale that up quickly. Also, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has a plan for expanding hospital capacity, but has not had to implement it yet.
  • The 85 cases yesterday, June 21, in Ouachita County are associated with a correctional facility there. ADH is still gathering information, but moved quickly to test 800 inmates. Additionally, 188 people have tested positive at the Benton County Jail.
  • Testing has been going well, but ADH recently had issues with vials they received from the federal government. ADH was advised that the vials were not suitable for use, so ADH is looking for other sources of the vials.
  • In the last 14 days, 2% of those testing positive for COVID-19 report having gone to a restaurant or church, 0.4% to a barbershop or hotel, and 0.2% to a gym.
  • Dr. Smith does not have a total number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital ICU, but of the hospitals with the top-10 number of cases, they range from five to 17 in an ICU bed. He does not have a percentage of individuals who have been on a ventilator and gotten off. The numbers are fluid and include many who stay on one for weeks.
  • Responding further to the question about the Chinese announcing the restriction on purchasing poultry from a Springdale processing plant, Dr. Smith said he was comfortable that the industry was ensuring employee safety and there is not a risk associated with the products.
  • Dr. Smith stated that the greatest impact to the current UAMS model regarding the projected late September COVID-19 peak would be for individuals to wear masks correctly.
  • Asked if there was a change in policy regarding students wearing masks on school buses, Dr. Smith said there has not been a change in policy. With kids, physical distancing measures are preferred, generally, as consistent mask-wearing is difficult for them.
  • Regarding a PPE shortage, Dr. Smith said overall he is not hearing that, but particular physician practices may have shortages. The state has a PPE decontamination unit for providers, with free shipping and decontamination within 72 hours.

Troy Wells: Chief Executive Officer of Baptist Health

  • Hospitals are getting busier, but he is concerned that patients were not getting care because they were delaying treatment. He does not want patients to delay care for chronic illnesses.
  • Critical care capacity is always a challenge. However, within Baptist Health’s in-patient facilities, only 16 are COVID-19 patients.
  • Major hospitals in metropolitan areas are used to moving patients around to ensure critical care and can increase beds if needed. They are adept at flexing services, as well.
  • They are still trying to acquire as much PPE as possible, but he believes they are in good shape. Baptist has moved PPE to rural communities, and has supplied non-Baptist providers at times.

Chad Aduddell: Chief Executive Officer of CHI St. Vincent

  • Mr. Aduddell wanted to assure Arkansans that Arkansas hospitals are in good shape with capacity. He stated that less than 5% of their patients are COVID-19 positive, and they have 1/3 bed capacity available.

Dr. Cam Patterson: Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

  • Dr. Patterson said UAMS works closely with other hospitals to accept transfers and can even have healthcare providers work at hospitals with shortages. Currently, there is much better testing, improved PPE supply chains, and hospitals can segregate COVID-19 patients from non- COVID-19 patients.
  • The difference between UAMS’ model and other models is that UAMS uses Arkansas data whereas the Washington model is extrapolating national data. The UAMS model gets evaluated weekly. He has confidence in it because it predicted 15,000 cases by the end of June, several months ago. All of the models are all lining up for a peak in late September, assuming there is not a change in behavior.

 

 

6/19/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 703 additional cases since yesterday, June 19, for a total of 14,631 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 703 cases, 41 were from correctional facilities, and 662 from community settings, which is a new record. Total deaths—214. There are 231 hospitalized patients, a new peak.

 

5,167 tests were performed yesterday. 92,275 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed. There is an overall positivity rate of 6.5%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor highlighted that he issued a Proclamation for Juneteenth. Asked about whether Juneteenth should be a state holiday, the Governor indicated that additional thought would need to go into determining whether it would be a substitute or new holiday.
  • In May, Arkansas’s unemployment declined to 9.5%. This amounts to 46,000 more Arkansans employed in May.
  • The Governor announced that $12 million from the CARES Act Steering Committee was approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council today for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), ambulances, providers and workers. $10 million will go to EMS workers, those working on ambulances, and $2 million will go to the EMS providers for payroll tax support. Approximately 5,000 people will receive between $125-250 a week, depending on how many hours they worked between April 5 and May 30.
  • The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is issuing new guidance on face coverings. It is the same guidance as provided for places of worship. The Governor is not prepared to issue a directive on mask-wearing. The Governor believes it would be difficult to enforce a mask-wearing directive, and it is not good policy to have a directive that is very difficult to enforce. He did note that there are directives for specific industries and worksites that are effective and easier to enforce. The state will continue to evaluate what works well and can make adjustments as needed.
  • The Governor has not seen a push from a large number of cities wanting to enact mask-wearing ordinances.
  • Asked about Little Rock announcing that a Confederate statue located at MacArthur Park would be moved, the Governor said his Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism was working with the City of Little Rock to find an appropriate location for the statue. Regarding removing Confederate statues on the Capitol grounds, the Governor said that was a matter for the General Assembly to consider.
  • The Governor reiterated his comments from yesterday about those that attend President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If they can wear a mask or social distance, they should be fine, but if not, he recommended they get tested for COVID-19 when they return home.
  • Asked about voting by mail, the Governor said it has not been embraced by the legislature. He would consider no-excuse absentee voting if the pandemic is ongoing. He is waiting to hear back from County Clerks and the State Election Commission on their needs for the fall.
  • Regarding whether the public health emergency would impact schools in the fall, the Governor said the emergency will likely extend to the school year, but he does not see it as an impediment to the school year.
  • In response to a question about Kansas including Arkansas on their travel quarantine list, the Governor said he thought it was a little odd because the states have a similar number of cases.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Speaking of the new mask-wearing guidance, Dr. Smith mentioned a situation in Missouri where a hairstylist was infected but wore a facemask, and their patrons did not get infected. Dr. Smith said this is evidence that masks can prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that positive cases have been associated with 25 places of worship, where someone in attendance had COVID-19. In 1/3 of those cases, the place of worship was not requiring masks or the majority of attendees were not wearing masks. Dr. Smith also mentioned there appears to be correlation between increased cases and weekend activities.
  • Regarding the CDC team in Northwest Arkansas, Dr. Smith said they are mapping transmission networks to give ADH a better idea on how to disrupt the chains of transmission. Also, the CDC team can provide a deeper level of analysis. The Team will be in Arkansas for another two weeks.
  • Asked about an NPR article saying Arkansas needed 1,600 contact tracers, Dr. Smith said that the number of contact tracers needed depends on strategy. ADH considers it more useful for contact tracers to have a higher level of training than what some states utilize. Also, ADH is partnering with worksites and educational institutes for contact tracers.
  • Regarding predictive models, such as the one publicized by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr. Smith said that he appreciates them, but this pandemic has been challenging to predict mathematically. It has not been driven by uniform growth like a mathematical model would predict.

 

 

6/18/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 322 additional cases since yesterday, June 17, for a total of 13,928 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. There are 4,344 active cases, with 142 in nursing homes, 644 in correctional facilities, and 3,558 community cases. Total deaths—208. There are 226 hospitalized patients, a new peak.

 

6,654 tests were performed yesterday. 86,814 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor’s Press Conference was in Fort Smith today. He noted that the first meeting of the Task Force to Advance Law Enforcement was held today at the United States Marshals Museum.
  • The Governor ended his 30-day emergency order early, which he declared due to civil unrest associated with the protests of George Floyd’s killing.
  • In his daily slides, the Governor showed the seven-day rolling averages for every public health region, with a downward trend line for them all, including Northwest Arkansas.
  • The Governor extended the public health emergency for another 45 days.  This allows the state to keep in place certain provisions like the expanded telehealth rules and the executive orders limiting business and healthcare liability.  Importantly, the Governor noted that the declaration allows the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to exercise statewide directives, superseding local rules and regulations, so the state can ensure uniformity in responding to COVID-19.
  • The Governor has no plan to challenge mask-wearing ordinances in Fayetteville and Little Rock, but noted that the state’s directive governs, disallowing rules more restrictive than what is provided in the state’s directive.
  • Asked about Kansas requiring a 14-day quarantine for those who come to the state from Arkansas, the Governor said he was provided no advance notice.
  • The Governor will not be attending President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As Tulsa is very close to Fort Smith, the Governor knows that many Arkansans will attend. If he was to attend, he said he would be wearing a mask and ensuring there was sufficient social distancing. If such criteria is not met, he encourages Arkansans to be tested for COVID-19.
  • Asked if he expected to see an increase in cases in the River Valley, where Fort Smith is located, and which is technically part of the Northwest Arkansas region, the Governor said yes, but it’s how you respond and manage it that is important.
  • In response to a question regarding whether he would consider restrictions on elective surgeries if regional hospitals were stretched thin by COVID-19, the Governor said it would not be his first or second option. The Governor noted the state’s surge plan, and that the state and hospitals were operating as a team.
  • Responding to University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) projections on a major increase in cases and hospitalizations in the early fall, the Governor indicated that it is a projection that assumes that nothing is done to mitigate the disease’s spread in the meantime. It is a reminder of how bad it could get, and a goal to do better than the projections.
  • Asked about a Benton County elected official who spoke negatively about wearing a mask, the Governor noted that it reflects a different view on mask-wearing, but he preaches that mask-wearing is a public health issue, not a political issue. He is not trying to punish people, but educate them on the public health benefits of mask-wearing.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • If a majority of Arkansans wore facemasks, it would greatly reduce the transmission of COVID-19. However, it takes a whole community working together.
  • Asked about COVID-19 tests, Dr. Dillaha stated that the test ADH uses looks for the actual presence of COVID-19’s genetic material. If you test positive, the virus is present.  A blood test for antibodies shows that you have potentially recovered, but it is not a useful test for clinical decisions, because it is only effective one to three weeks after recovery. The previous nasal swab was both very uncomfortable, but also required extensive PPE wearing by healthcare workers. The newer nasal swab can actually have the patient collect the sample. The Abbott test, while useful if you need to know if one person is infected, is not particularly useful for large-scale testing.

 

 

6/17/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 415 additional cases since yesterday, June 17, for a total of 13,606 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 415 cases, 35 were from a correctional facility and 380 were from community settings. There are now 4,413 active cases, with 676 in correctional facilities, 147 in nursing homes and 3,590 in the community. There have been 8,996 recoveries. Total deaths—197. There are 217 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 53 on ventilators.
7,514 tests were performed yesterday. 80,105 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.
The chart below provides a somewhat different look at the trends related to COVID-19 in Arkansas than we have presented previously. The blue line is the same seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 that we have been using in this update for several weeks. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day. We present this new graph because many Arkansans wonder if the rise in the number of positive cases is related to increased testing. You see some justification for this conclusion in the similarity of the trend lines. What is not presented in this graph is the trend in the cumulative number of cases in the state. Going forward, we will rotate which data we present with the rolling average of new cases. 
The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day. 

 

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  •     Tomorrow’s press conference will be held in Fort Smith.
  •     The Governor showed a new slide with the seven-day rolling average of positive cases, which has been flat for several weeks.
  •     The Governor announced a plan to reopen long-term care facilities (LTCF), including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and DHS facilities, effective July 1. The Governor noted that there has been an emotional risk for families and residents beyond the risk of COVID-19. The facilities must complete testing by July 1, and each facility must comply with DHS guidelines before they reopen. Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will close facilities for visitation if cases are present, so there is a strong incentive to ensure compliance.
  •     Asked about the White House guidance which has reopening LTCF in Phase III, the Governor noted that this was the right step because they were ahead of schedule on testing, sufficient protocols are in place, and there is a low positivity rate in the facilities.
  •     Regarding a Fayetteville ordinance requiring mask-wearing, the Governor said he understands where their heart is on the matter, but he would prefer that cities not take this step. He noted that there is conflict between the Fayetteville ordinance and state executive orders. He does not anticipate taking action against Fayetteville for its ordinance but may have to evaluate if other cities begin enacting mask-wearing ordinances. He wants cities to coordinate with the state before enacting ordinances to avoid a hodgepodge of different requirements. 
  •     In response to a New Yorker article that was critical of Arkansas’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak at Cummins Prison, the Governor noted that the New Yorker did not reach out to him. Instead, the New Yorker submitted 60 questions to the Department of Corrections, which responded. He does not believe the New Yorker used all the information provided, trying to paint a negative picture of Arkansas’s prisons as something out of the 1960’s, not recognizing the reforms that have been made to the prison system. 
  •     Asked about Dr. Patterson, the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, wanting additional policies to be implemented due to concerns about a shortage of hospital capacity in the fall, the Governor said he speaks regularly with Dr. Patterson and other hospital administrators and believes they have sufficient policies in place to ensure hospital capacity.  
  •     The Governor hopes to have a contract in place for expanded contact tracing by early July.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  •     ADH worked closely with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Arkansas Health Care Association to come up with strict criteria designed to keep LTCF residents safe while allowing very important human interaction.  
  •     The CDC is in Northwest Arkansas today, meeting with minority communities and doing a deeper analysis of the situation. They are also meeting with the Missouri Department of Health, so there can be a unified approach. 
  •     Dr. Smith does not believe ADH is behind on contact tracing. It can be difficult to reach some individuals, so those that say they have not been contacted may have just not responded. They track their performance internally, on a 5-day basis after notification.
  •     Regarding transmission from asymptomatic individuals, ADH has not been seeing secondary cases when physical distancing is practiced and masks are worn. ADH has found that transmission is unlikely if ADH guidelines are followed. 
  •     In response to an increase in cases in the Washington and Benton County Jails, Dr. Smith said ADH is proactively screening the inmates and rapidly responding to prevent additional cases.

Rachel Bunch: Executive Director of the Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA)

  •     AHCA is dedicated to reopening carefully and adjusting when necessary. Visitation will not look the same, so LTCF are adapting their space and educating staff.
  •     Bunch shared that residents are looking forward to family visits and community dining, among other activities.

Jerry Sharum: Director of the Division of Provider Services and Quality Assurance

  •     Only a 1/3 of LTCF have active cases, and the positivity rate is less than 1% after 14,000 tests this month. 80% of the cases have been at 12% of facilities.
  •     The data is indicating a targeted intervention can work, so reopening will be on a facility by facility basis, and by facility type. If cases arise, they will be addressed on an individual basis.
  •     Visitor screening will be more vigorous than the current screening for other facilities.

 

 

6/16/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 274 additional cases since yesterday, June 15, for a total of 13,191 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Total deaths—188. There are 214 hospitalized patients, a new peak.

 

4,175 tests were performed yesterday. 72,244 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed. Over 6% of the state’s population has been tested since March 11, for a total of 208,000 tests.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today’s press conference was held in Hot Springs, located in Garland County. The Governor shared a photo of a concert at Magic Springs as an example of a safe way to have a concert. The aerial photo showed individuals spread out over the venue.
  • The Governor said the hospital administrator he met with today indicated they have sufficient capacity. The Governor showed a slide for the Central Region of Arkansas, which includes Hot Springs, demonstrating that the region is averaging 40 hospitalizations daily.
  • The Governor showed a slide with growth rates by age ranges. The highest growth rate was in the 0-17 age range, which the Governor said is good news, because those individuals are more likely to be asymptomatic and their recovery rate is extremely high.
  • The Governor provided a final slide, showing that in June, 13,000 tests have been done in nursing homes, with 113 positives, a 0.9% positivity rate. 150 facilities have been tested, and 250 facilities remain to be tested. The state is on track to complete the testing this month. The Governor anticipates making an announcement regarding a nursing home reopening timeline tomorrow.
  • Asked about the continued increase in Northwest Arkansas cases, the Governor expressed concern with the over 10% infection rate. Cases in Benton and Washington Counties have been way too high, showing there is community spread. The state will continue to study the data. He noted a targeted response could be appropriate if a venue is showing a high-level of positive cases.
  • Responding to a question about state employees being provided notice last Wednesday that they would be required to return to work yesterday, the Governor indicated that individual cabinet secretaries had flexibility to address returning to work.
  • Asked about a big jump in cases in school-age children, and whether it would impact school in the fall, the Governor said the state cannot afford to have a limited commitment to education. The state has a plan, and is working with school districts to ensure there is a healthy environment for learning in the fall.
  • In regards to those without insurance that become impacted by COVID-19, the Governor acknowledged there is a gap, and local health departments could be of assistance in helping with treatment options.
  • In response to a question about people not wearing masks, the Governor spoke that perhaps there is a political taint nationally to mask-wearing, but it could just be human nature. He spoke of supporting those businesses that do the right thing by following the healthcare guidance and requiring it in their establishments.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)
  • Dr. Dillaha provided details on the case totals by age range.
  •  13,191 total cases
    • 0-17 Age Range: 1,357 cases, or 10% of the total cases.
    • 18-24 Age Range: 1,469 cases, or 11% of the total cases.
    • 25-44 Age Range: 5,012 cases, or 38% of the total cases.
    • 45-64 Age Range:  3,840 cases, or 29% of the total cases.
    • 65+ Age Range: 1,512 cases, or 12% of the total cases.
  • 134 of the 188 deaths, or 71% of the deaths, involve those over the age of 65.
  • Dr. Dillaha said many of the state’s deaths are from long term care facilities. She is really pleased with the efforts to test all the facilities, so a process can be implemented for reopening. She knows the restrictions provide a great hardship for the residents.
  • Dr. Dillaha indicated that there can be a gap between the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) receiving a death certificate and when it is recorded as a COVID-19 death, in response to a question about coroners in Northwest Arkansas reporting higher deaths than what ADH has reported. She was unfamiliar with the situation in Northwest Arkansas, and if there is a discrepancy, it could cause the death count to rise.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • In positive news, it appears that the state’s economy is slowly bouncing back.
  • Statewide, the Department of Commerce is seeing a leveling off of unemployment claims and they are moving in the right direction. Claims have gone down the last four weeks, from 122,000 to 106,000. 32,000 individuals are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
  • Secretary Preston mentioned that three unemployment requirements were waived when the Governor declared an emergency: a week-long waiting period, filing in person, and a work search requirement. After June 30, the work search requirement will resume for those receiving unemployment benefits. It will be the same process as before and can be done online.

 

 

6/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 416 additional cases since yesterday, June 14, for a total of 12,917 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 416 cases, 26 were from a correctional facility and 390 were from community settings. There are now 4,383 active cases. There have been 8,352 recoveries. Total deaths—182. There are 206 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 45 on ventilators.

 

7,063 tests were performed yesterday. 68,069 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced there will not be a special legislative session to address business and healthcare liability associated with COVID-19. The Governor, flanked by members of the House and Senate, indicated that the majority of members wanted to address liability concerns in a special session, but recognized the timing was not right given the issues surrounding COVID-19. Members determined that the best route to provide assistance to businesses and healthcare workers concerned about potential liability was through the use of executive order.
  • Details regarding the EOs are as follows:
    • Business Liability
      • All businesses and their employees shall be immune from civil liability as a result of exposure to COVID-19.
      • Immunity does not apply to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct.
      • A presumption that the actions are not willful or reckless if the business owner substantially complies with public health directives.
      • Immunity begins effective immediately.
    • Medical Immunity
      • Healthcare workers and providers are authorized to use crisis standards of care to treat COVID-19 patients.
      • Healthcare emergency workers are immune from civil liability.
  • The Governor indicated that cases will continue to rise, and this very well could be the first peak versus a second peak.
  • The Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Committee has reviewed the EOs. The EO is important because there is an infectious disease exemption that disallows workers’ compensation claims, and this would address that issue.
  • Asked why the state would provide additional immunity, the Governor said the goal is for businesses to not worry about lawsuits, as this can have a chilling effect. He noted that there have been scores of cases filed around the country against businesses associated with COVID-19 cases, but he was unaware of any cases filed in Arkansas.
  • In response to a question about why individuals should feel comfortable going back to businesses if businesses need liability protection, the Governor noted that there are two messages. We have to go back to living our lives and carry on doing business, but you can best do that by following public health guidelines. Those messages are complimentary. This helps incentivize businesses to follow CDC and Arkansas Department of Health guidelines.
  • The Governor, asked whether the message was still to flatten the curve, said that message was important initially because the infrastructure for responding to COVID-19 was not in place in the early phases of responding to COVID-19. While there is more infrastructure now, the primary goal now is to avoid cases by protecting yourself and others.
  • The Governor recognized that some people will view the message that we need to get back to business as meaning that there is no risk associated with COVID-19, which is not what he intends.
  • The Governor responded to a question about the end date for the EO, by saying the end of the pandemic is the end date of the EO.
  • The Governor will be in Hot Springs tomorrow, June 16.

Representative Matthew Shepherd: Speaker of the House

  • Speaker Shepherd noted lawmakers wanted to accomplish two things: provide liability protection and address certain limitations in the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The Speaker said that if it is determined that the EOs do not adequately address the issues, the legislature could come back at another time to address them. The goal is to allow businesses to reopen, and the ones that make the right efforts to follow the guidelines should have their fears of litigation minimized.
  • The Speaker noted that the EO does not provide for absolute immunity. He elaborated that Arkansas law provides several instances where immunity is provided because of a compelling public policy, and there is a compelling public policy at stake here.
  • Asked about a special session, the Speaker said timing is key, but nothing is imminent.

Senator Jim Hendren: President Pro Tempore of the Senate

  • Senator Hendren said the motivation behind the EO was to provide businesses with protection from excessive fear of lawsuits. This is not blanket immunity for bad actors. Businesses that comply in good faith with the state’s guidance should be provided assurances they will not face lawsuits. The EOs are not retroactive. It was determined that the existing workers’ compensation laws did not sufficiently provide opportunities for workers as it relates to COVID-19, so an EO could provide assistance for individuals stricken by COVID-19 at work.
  • Senator Hendren noted that the state and businesses were in unchartered territory. Businesses have been decimated, and for small businesses doing their best, lawsuits associated with COVID-19 could be the last nail in their coffin.
  • Senator Hendren said there is always the possibility of another special session in 2020, but the legislature is nowhere close to having one anytime soon.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • There continues to be no linkage at this time between increased cases and reopened activities.
  • The CDC is looking at the cases in Northwest Arkansas and attempting to find links between them, as well as, reaching out to minority communities on COVID-19 prevention messaging. He is aware of a positive case at the Benton County Jail and measures are being put in place to ensure the safety of those in the jail.
  • Dr. Romero clarified that Dr. Jennifer Dillaha’s quote in a news article stating that increased cases are due to workplace restriction easing was a misquote.

 

 

6/12/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 731 additional cases since yesterday, June 11, for a total of 11,547 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 731 cases, 207 were from a correctional facility and 524 were from community settings. There are now 3,764 active cases, a new peak, with 402 in correctional facilities, 144 in nursing homes and 3,218 in the community. There have been 7,607 recoveries. Total deaths—171. There are 203 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 49 on ventilators.

 

5,591 tests were performed yesterday. 50,654 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed. There have been a total of 182,645 tests performed, with a positivity rate of 6.2%.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor noted that Dr. Smith could not attend the daily press conference, and joked that he was not self-quarantining, but had previous obligations.
  • 207 cases occurred at the East Arkansas Regional Correctional Facility in Lee County. 199 of the 524 community cases were Tyson Foods employees. Tyson Foods, located in Springdale, tested all 1,202 team members in a facility in Washington County. Of those 199 positive cases, only one was symptomatic.
  • On a day with a record number of cases, the Governor provided an overview of the CDC guidance on what can be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Governor highlighted the need to wear face coverings to protect others.
  • The Governor announced that due to the large increase in cases, he has authorized 20 National Guard members to assist the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) with contact tracing. Additionally, an RFQ for contact tracers has been accelerated.
  • Though the Governor expects cases to increase, he does not have second thoughts about entering Phase II. There remains no indication of a connection between lifting restrictions and the increase in cases.
  • Hospitals in Northwest Arkansas have surge capacity plans in case there is a rapid increase in hospitalizations. ADH is making contingency plans in case there becomes a hospital capacity shortage.
  • The Governor’s Medical Advisory Board made the decision to enter Phase II based on data and science.
  • The Governor will not mandate mask-wearing. He does not think it is enforceable or realistic. He did note that mask-wearing is important, and there is a mandate for those in licensed facilities, such as restaurants, to wear masks under certain circumstances
  • Individuals should not have concerns about traveling around the state of Arkansas. Asked by a relative in Northwest Arkansas whether they should self-isolate, he said no, just take precautions.
  • Asked if the state would be in a better place if it had implemented a shelter-in-place, the Governor said no. He did say that everyone should think about that question. He noted that even states that did implement a shelter-in-place still had spikes in cases after the shelter-in-place. He said at some point, like in California, you just have to open up because citizens would not live with the restrictions anymore.
  • Asked if contact tracers were behind in tracing because of the large increase in cases, the Governor said contact tracers can get stretched thin when you have a large increase in cases. However, resources are being applied to reduce that strain.
  • Regarding how to change the case increase trajectory, the Governor indicated that the state’s strategy is good, but may not be executing well enough. Noting that he would like to go on economic development trips this fall, he said it is tough to plan because there is no telling what will happen by then.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at the ADH

  • Dr. Romero stated that there have been 1,353 cases associated with the poultry industry, with 682 active cases.
  • Dr. Romero noted that in less than 1% of the cases, the individual was symptomatic.
  • Of the COVID-19 cases in Arkansas, 21.2% have been from the Latinx community and 6.2% from the Marshallese community.

 

 

6/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 448 additional cases since yesterday, June 10, for a total of 10,816 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 448 cases, four were from a correctional facility and 444 were from community settings.  There are now 3,294 active cases, a new peak, with 199 in correctional facilities, 140 in nursing homes and 2,955 in the community.  There have been 7,351 recoveries.  Total deaths—171.  There are 187 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 45 on ventilators.

 

4,914 tests were performed yesterday.  45,063 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Northwest Arkansas continues to lead in the daily case count, with over 220 of the 444 community cases coming from Washington and Benton Counties.  93% of the cases in Washington County came from one city, Springdale.  The Governor has been reassured that the hospital capacity and PPE supply are sufficient in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Asked about a letter from a hospital in Washington County saying that the increase in cases and hospitalizations is not merely due to increased testing, the Governor said it was very thoughtful and well-timed, and they are absolutely right.  The Governor stated that while the state moved to Phase II, it is a reminder that there can be serious consequences associated with COVID-19. Asked if the letter gave him pause, he said he was grateful for the letter, but the decision to enter Phase II was correct.  Regardless of what occurs in the next week as far as cases and hospitalizations, COVID-19 will be with us into next year, so we must manage the risk and not incur any additional damage to people’s lives.
  • In response to a question about his thoughts on 32% of Arkansans thinking Phase II was entered into too quickly, the Governor wants them to know the state followed the data and the science, is being careful and taking the matter seriously.  They will continue to provide information so Arkansans can make good decisions.
  • Asked why the state did not take a regional approach to Phase II, the Governor said that a regional approach locked the state into an approach that would be difficult to move from.
  • Asked if he would take action to reduce cases and hospitalizations, the Governor said they would examine their options if they find a correlation between the data on restrictions and hospitalizations and new cases. However, there has been no correlation between reopened activities and additional cases.
  • In response to a question about a potential special session, the Governor said there are no plans yet for one.
  • Responding to a question about whether there was anything that would keep school from occurring in the fall, the Governor said he did not want to set specific benchmarks or projections, as we do not know what the COVID-19 environment will be like in August, which is 60 days from now. The state will learn from summer day camps in their efforts to prepare for school in the fall.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The new cases continue to come from the Latinx community, household clustering, and clusters in the workplace, particularly those associated with the poultry industry.   The CDC is arriving tomorrow and will assist with Latinx messaging, and provide new Arkansas specific insights.  Dr. Smith said that they are getting the message out to the Latinx community, but it takes a while to pull the cases back.
  • Opening up schools will be a challenge.  Schools were closed appropriately, and as they have gained experience and information, ADH continues to develop a plan to ensure student safety in the fall.
  • Dr. Smith said the reason he advised the Governor to move to Phase II was because the state had already moved to Phase II in many areas where they were not seeing active cases, so there was no compelling reason to stay in Phase I.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer: Deputy Commissioner, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE)

  • ADE has learned a great deal since the COVID-19 pandemic began and will adapt to student needs as it plans for the fall.
  • ADE has an Arkansas Ready for Learning plan.  It is an achievable goal that provides flexibility if issues occur in the fall.  It will be important for parents and students to engage with schools.  Local school districts will be strongly encouraged to have local planning committees to plan for the safest return possible.
  • School districts should ensure the ADH protocols are met, and work with local education cooperatives to purchase PPE.
  • ADE recognizes that parents may have concerns, so they will work with local school districts to ensure appropriate support and options are provided.  There may be a need to pivot, so ADE will provide resources and guidance so each local school district and community can be prepared.

 

 

6/10/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 288 additional cases since yesterday, June 9, for a total of 10,368 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 288 cases, 60 were from a correctional facility and 228 were from community settings.  There are now 3,087 active cases, with 199 in correctional facilities, 138 in nursing homes and 2,750 in the community.  There have been 7,116 recoveries.  Total deaths—165.  There are 181 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 49 on ventilators.

 

4,420 tests were performed yesterday.  37,907 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The chart below provides a somewhat different look at the trends related to COVID-19 in Arkansas than we have presented previously. The blue line is the same seven-day rolling average of the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 that we have been using in this update for several weeks. The green line is a seven-day rolling average of the number of tests performed each day. We present this new graph because many Arkansans wonder if the rise in the number of positive cases is related to increased testing. You see some justification for this conclusion in the similarity of the trend lines. What is not presented in this graph is the trend in the cumulative number of cases in the state. Going forward, we will rotate which data we present with the rolling average of new cases.

 

The seven-day testing average data reflects the Arkansas Department of Health statistics whenever available. When data is unavailable, a mathematical adjustment has been made to reflect estimated testing on that day.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor announced that Arkansas would enter Phase II on Monday, June 15.  The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will publish guidelines by Friday, June 12. The rationale was that Arkansas has for the most part entered Phase II, specifically travel, sports, large venues, and elective surgeries all being allowed with certain restrictions.  The main impact will be that businesses or events that have restrictions on size, for instance, 1/3 capacity caps, will be authorized to go to 2/3 capacity, while following the public health guidance.  This will impact restaurants, gyms, and salons, among other businesses.  The Governor ultimately concluded that the state is best served moving together, despite regional spikes.  The Governor will continue his executive order declaring a public emergency for an additional 45 days.
  • The Governor reiterated that Arkansas’s increase in cases has not been a result of lifting restrictions, as businesses are taking precautions and following ADH’s guidance.
  • The Governor elaborated that the federal gating criteria is based upon peaks in cases, like what has been seen in New York and Louisiana, versus what has been seen in Arkansas.  Also, the gating criteria is not sacrosanct.  He made an analogy that Arkansas is like the Ozarks, with multiple smaller peaks, and certain locations have had one large peak, like the Rockies.
  • To better constrain the virus, the state will be providing additional public health support and contact tracing for Benton and Washington Counties.  The CDC will be sending four to five bilingual staff for the Latinx community in Northwest Arkansas.
  • State employees have received notice that beginning June 15, when the state enters Phase II, with limited telework flexibility, state employees will begin returning to the office.
  • The Governor expects schools to reopen in the Fall, but the details remain a work in progress.  The plan involves a blended teaching environment, with online instruction utilization.  One issue, in particular, that will require additional work is student transportation.
  • The Governor is eager to get to Phase III, but it is a gradual process.  He wants to let businesses get experience and for ADH to follow the data.  He said COVID-19 is too serious not to take it a step at a time.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith showed a slide with the rate of active COVID-19 positive cases in the community by county.  The counties with the highest percentages, over 30 cases per 10,000 individuals, were Sevier, Yell, and Washington Counties.
  • Dr. Smith said the state had taken steps to protect the most vulnerable populations, hence the low death rate in Arkansas.
  • Dr. Smith is not expecting a big jump in cases from entering Phase II.  He said you would have expected a jump, if there was going to be one, going from 0% to 1/3% capacity, but that has not occurred.
  • In response to a question about whether COVID-19 is not as communicable as anticipated, Dr. Smith said it was, but what they have learned is how to minimize the spread by putting protective measures into place.  Dr. Smith mentioned that ADH has had employees test positive for COVID-19, but there has not been additional office transmission.  Cleaning is important, but limiting opportunities for people to breathe the same air over a long period of time is more important.
  • The state still needs more blood donations.  The Arkansas Blood Institute has announced they will screen all blood donated for antibodies.
  • There has been a case increase associated with children, but they appear to be from the home environment, not clusters of children infecting other children.  ADH will watch this closely this summer with summer camps.
  • ADH’s contact tracing procurement includes a request for information on how the applicant will recruit bilingual contact tracers.

Dr. Greg Bledsoe: Arkansas Surgeon General

  • Dr. Bledsoe believes that a good plan has been put in place for entering Phase II.  He’s glad that a structure will remain in place during Phase II, to allow for restriction easing, but with ADH guidance.

 

 

6/9/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 340 additional cases since yesterday, June 8, for a total of 10,080 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 340 cases, 34 were from a correctional facility and 306 were from community settings.  There are now 3,044 active cases, with 139 in correctional facilities, 141 in nursing homes and 2,764 in the community.  There have been 6,875 recoveries.  Total deaths—161.  There are 173 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 44 on ventilators.

 

4,849 tests were performed yesterday.  33,711 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives published today, June 9.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held two press conferences today.  At the first press conference, the Governor announced a task force on advancing the state of law enforcement in Arkansas, in response to concerns that have been raised following the death of George Floyd.  The Governor said a recurring theme he has heard is improving law enforcement training as well as law enforcement understanding and accountability on racial issues.  He knows that the most important thing for law enforcement is trust and integrity, and the trust has been undermined by Mr. Floyd’s death. The Governor wants to ensure there is the right accountability for law enforcement officers.
  • The Governor made clear his support for law enforcement, and that this task force will not address defunding law enforcement.  He said it’s always a fair discussion to talk about allocation of resources, to enhance law enforcement to make sure they are better trained and there is adequate accountability.
  • There has been no comprehensive review of standards and accountability for Arkansas law enforcement in 45 years.
  • The Governor mentioned that in 1996, six officers were decertified because of misconduct, while 40 were decertified last year.
  • The Governor wants the task force to reflect the community as well as have law enforcement involvement. He thinks there’s a good balance and dynamic for change.  The Governor noted that the Mayor of Pine Bluff will be on the task force.
  • Fred Weatherspoon, deputy director of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, said that law enforcement are not trained on chokeholds.
  • The Governor mentioned that several protest leaders, who will be part of the task force, have provided him with a list of requests already prepared, and he’s glad that they are providing their perspective.
  • The Governor said that all options, such as funding, training, legislation, and executive action, will be discussed.
  • Today’s COVID-19 press conference was held in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
  • In his daily slides, the Governor showed that 694 tests per 10,000 individuals are being done in Southeast Arkansas, and 666 tests per 10,000 in Jefferson County, where Pine Bluff is located, versus 565 tests per 10,000 individuals statewide.  Southeast Arkansas is averaging around 30 hospitalizations.
  • The Governor said he plans an announcement regarding the state entering Phase II tomorrow.
  • Asked about a letter from Representative Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, in which Rep. Sullivan stated that Jonesboro was going to enter Phase II on Friday, with or without the Governor’s support, the Governor said he gets letters from the other side as well, saying that the current Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) directives are not restrictive enough.  The Governor said he is trying to make the best possible decisions based on public health guidance.  Asked what the repercussions would be if businesses decide to enter Phase II in defiance of an ADH directive, the Governor said it could jeopardize their license.
  • In response to a question about whether he expected the second wave to be as large as it is, the Governor said no.  He said the quickness surprised him, as his expectation was that there could be a second wave this fall.  The Governor mentioned that surrounding states are currently experiencing a second wave of cases.
  • Asked if there was any update on the progress regarding the return of sports, the Governor said the reports he receives are that coaches and athletic directors are being careful to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith broke down the statistics to make them more specific to Southeast Arkansas and Jefferson County.
    • In Southeast Arkansas:
      • There have been 2,580 cases, with 771 in community and 1809 in correctional facilities.
      • There are 257 active cases, with 148 active community cases, and 109 in correctional facilities.
      • There have been 44 deaths, with 32 in community and 12 from correctional facilities.
    • In Jefferson County:
      • There have been 559 cases, with 320 in the community and 239 in correctional facilities.
      • There are 52 active cases, with 41 in the community and 11 in correctional facilities.
      • There have been 28 deaths, with 27 in community and one in a correctional facility.
  • Jefferson County saw a large number of deaths in the beginning of the pandemic because of a large number of nursing homes cases.

 

 

6/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 314 additional cases since yesterday, June 7, for a total of 9,740 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 314 cases, 13 were from a correctional facility and 301 were from community settings.  There are now 2,955 active cases, with 106 in correctional facilities, 139 in nursing homes and 2,710 in the community.

 

There have been 6,630 recoveries.  Total deaths—155.  There are 171 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 46 on ventilators.

 

4,131 tests were performed yesterday, with a positivity rate of 4.5%.  Overall, the positivity rate is 6%.  28,862 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor confirmed he has deactivated the Arkansas National Guard (ANG) after consultation with the Arkansas State Police (ASP) and the ANG Adjunct General.  The Executive Order (EO) creating a command structure headed by the ASP remains in place, but the number of law enforcement units deployed is being reduced.
  • The Governor anticipates issuing an EO regarding formation of a task force dealing with law enforcement policy, training, and certification and standards, at an 11 a.m. (CST) press conference tomorrow.  He said he has held very productive meetings with protest leaders, noting they have articulated the message that they have not been a part of the destructive activities that occurred.
  • The Governor noted the positivity rate is a very important data point for him, but that the figures are not final until up to 48 hours after they are initially announced.
  • Northwest Arkansas continues to lead Arkansas in the number of daily positive cases, with Washington and Benton Counties having over 120 cases yesterday, June 7.
  • The Governor announced that he is not prepared to implement a Phase II regional approach, but he will continue to evaluate the data to determine whether it can become a possibility in the future, or if other options are needed.
  • The Governor expressed the following six principles: the five public health regions are all at different stages of COVID-19 impact; future spread is not predictable; the data shows cases are not related to lifting of restrictions; increased testing shines a light on the challenges faced in responding to COVID-19; self-discipline and social-discipline must be exercised; and the economy must continue re-opening.
  • Asked if the increase in cases is because of Arkansans letting their guard down, the Governor said by and large no.  While there will always be people that do not want to follow public health guidance, he believes social distancing and mask-wearing is more predominant now than 30 days ago.
  • The state has not identified any new cases associated with the protests, however, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will trace the cases from the weekend and see what the data indicates.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • ADH does not see a relationship between the large increase in cases and reopening businesses and other activities.  Dr. Smith mentioned that 2% of infected individuals have reported visiting a restaurant, 1% a barbershop, 1% church, and less than 1% report having gone to a gym or hotel in the last 14 days.
  • Dr. Smith said that while 26 additional hospitalizations are concerning and quite an increase, the state’s hospitals are nowhere near capacity.  He will check with hospitals to ensure no individual hospital becomes taxed due to an increase in patients.  If an individual hospital becomes overwhelmed, they can always transfer patients.
  • Asked if protestors need to be tested, Dr. Smith said anyone who feels like they may be at risk should get tested.  Contact tracing will be more difficult for tracing cases associated with protests, but ADH will do their best.  Dr. Smith said that COVID-19 seems to spread fastest in congregate settings, and individuals are less apt to get infected in casual settings, like grocery stores or workplaces that have put protective measures in place.  ADH does not gather information on whether infected individuals wore a mask, because of the discrepancies in how and when individuals wear masks.
  • Dr. Smith said it is difficult to say that the increase in cases in the past week is due to Memorial Day activities because there has been a prolonged increase in cases, not one bump.
  • Asked about the effectiveness of Remdesivir, Dr. Smith said he has no Arkansas-specific information, but the studies do seem to indicate it reduces the length of hospitalizations for infected patients.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force (AERTF)

  • The AERTF continues to meet and will prepare another report this month.  The AERTF heard from an economist today, and the message appears to be that broadly, Arkansas small businesses have disproportionately suffered the brunt of the impact from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.  However, on balance, Arkansas has handled its economic recovery better than many states.

 

 

6/5/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 226 additional cases since yesterday, June 4, for a total of 8,651 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Total deaths—152.  There are 147 hospitalized patients, with 32 on ventilators.

 

3,846 tests were performed yesterday, with a positivity rate of 3.1%.  16,045 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Governor Hutchinson noted that the new average number of cases per day is approximately mid-200s, despite a couple days of spikes. The Governor highlighted that the last 20 days have seen less than a 10% daily infection rate, with only one day in the last 40 with over a 10% daily infection rate.
  • The Governor highlighted ADH’s contact tracing efforts from the 190 cases reported on June 1. Of those 190, 144 were successfully contacted. Of those 144, ADH determined that 222 additional individuals were potentially exposed to COVID-19. Importantly, the Governor noted that ADH was able to link 115 individuals, or 60.5% of the infections, with the origination location. The Governor showed a slide of the state’s testing per 10,000 individuals by public health regions. They are as follows (missing county name accounts for the remaining percentages):
    • Northwest: 351.4 per 10,000 individuals;
    • Northeast: 427.2 per 10,000 individuals;
    • Central: 374.9 per 10,000 individuals;
    • Southwest: 325.6 per 10,000 individuals; and
    • Southeast: 585.2 per 10,000 individuals.
  • The Governor showed a slide of the number of tests by public health regions. They are as follows (missing county name accounts for the remaining percentages):
    • Northwest: 36,241 or 24% of the total tests;
    • Northeast: 23,619 or 15.6% of the total tests;
    • Central: 31,223 or 20.9% of the total tests;
    • Southwest: 10,430 or 6.9% of the total tests; and
    • Southeast: 14,827 or 9.8% of the total tests.
  • The Governor showed a slide of the number of tests performed today by public health regions. They are as follows (missing county name accounts for the remaining percentages):
    • Northwest: 1,326 or 34.5% of the total tests;
    • Northeast: 392 or 10.2% of the total tests;
    • Central: 813 or 21.1% of the total tests;
    • Southwest: 288 or 7.5% of the total tests; and
    • Southeast: 234 or 6.1% of the total tests.
  • The Governor stressed that the way to beat COVID-19 is to take public health precautions seriously every day while living life and managing risk. The Governor warned to not let down on your discipline and awareness of the damage that can be done by COVID-19.
  • Asked whether the population density in Northwest Arkansas was a factor in cases and hospitalizations, the Governor said population density is a factor. He has been assured by hospital administrators in Northwest Arkansas that they have sufficient capacity both for treating COVID-19 patients and continuing elective procedures.
  • Asked about the 17 individuals that tested positive on Monday but have not been contacted by a contact tracer, the Governor said he is satisfied with ADH’s efforts. The Governor did say the state needs to beef up its contact tracing program.
  • In response to a question about the City of Little Rock allowing expanded dining on sidewalks, the Governor said he supported restaurant industry efforts that are consistent with ADH’s public health guidelines. The Governor said he encourages efforts undertaken by restaurants that are consistent with Phase I guidelines.
  • Responding to a question about Tyson Foods implementing a formal attendance policy, the Governor said he has been in contact with industry leaders about their efforts to resume operations, while being mindful of the public health requirements. He is not concerned about companies going back to normal operations if they follow ADH guidelines. The Governor said he would be surprised if a company requires an employee to come to work, and not provide some form of paid sick leave, if the employee has COVID-19 or symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Asked if the Arkansas National Guard (ANG) deployed to Harrison to provide support for local law enforcement, the Governor said no. He reiterated that the Arkansas State Police (ASP) works closely with local law enforcement and that most demonstrations have been peaceful. The ASP and other civilian resources are utilized first, and the ANG is utilized only if there is a strong need for their assistance.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith provided more details on the 190 positive cases from Monday. Of the 190 cases, two went to a barbershop or salon, one to a daycare, one to a gym, three to a healthcare provider, two to a hotel, and 39 were associated with the poultry industry. 19 have already recovered.
  • Asked if his contact tracers were overwhelmed, Dr. Smith acknowledged that ADH was handling the cases as best as they could, but were stretched. ADH will be training up to 100 volunteers next week. Additionally, ADH issued a Request for Qualifications today for an additional 350 contact tracers, along with everything needed for them to be effective. ADH hopes to have an entity identified to do the work within the next month or two.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Dillaha provided an overview of ADH’s contact tracing process.
  • A nurse reaches out to an infected individual and interviews them, asking when symptoms began. The nurse then goes back two days, as they can be asymptomatic or presymptomatic. If the individual is asymptomatic or has mild symptoms, the date of symptoms onset is assumed to be the date of the COVID-19 test. The nurse then learns details about the individual, such as their family history, where they are employed, and their social activity. The nurse is interested in who they have had close contact with, defined as within six feet of for at least 15 minutes. The contact tracer then systematically goes through and informs the infected individuals’ contacts of their probable exposure and of their need to quarantine to prevent spread. This lasts for 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and, assuming they do well (no fever for three days or they are not in the hospital), they can end their isolation. ADH wants contacts to remain isolated, even if asymptomatic, because the incubation period is 14 days. Contacts should get tested regardless of symptoms and remain quarantined even if they test negative. Contacts are monitored through an alert system, which notifies them if they need to get tested or go to the hospital. ADH has 240 staff working on contact tracing and is collaborating with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and other entities.

 

 

6/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 358 additional cases since yesterday, June 3, for a total of 8,425 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 358 cases, two were from a correctional facility and 356 were from community settings.  There are now 2,355 active cases, with 43 in correctional facilities, 93 in nursing homes and 2,217 in the community.  There have been 5,919 recoveries.  Total deaths—151.  There are 137 hospitalized patients, with 32 on ventilators.

 

4,350 tests were performed yesterday, with a positivity rate of 5.2%.  12,199 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today, June 4.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by recognizing this morning’s memorial service for George Floyd, and spoke of his appreciation for the life lived by George Floyd.
  • The Governor displayed his customary slides showing the seven-day rolling averages for the state’s five public health regions.  In foue of the five regions, the trend lines were flat or appeared to have peaked recently, while Northwest Arkansas was much higher than the rest of the regions.
  • Northwest Arkansas had the largest number of cases yesterday, 234, or 65.4% of the cases statewide.
  • The Governor discussed the Federal Government’s gating criteria for Phases I & II of reopening and stated he sensed most Americans are not paying attention to the federal gating criteria.  He did acknowledge that the gating criteria are just guidelines for states.  For the Governor, the most relevant gating criteria was that the state had a consistently low positivity rate, below the threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control.
  • The Governor said he was on a call today with business leaders who asked how the state could enter Phase II.  The Governor mentioned Phase II requires evidence of no rebounds or a satisfaction of the Phase I gating criteria a second time. The Governor does not necessarily consider the increase in cases in Northwest Arkansas a “rebound,” but rather a result of increased testing.
  • The Governor indicated the state was considering implementing Phase II at different times for different public health regions of the state, noting it would be hard to hold back regions that had met the Phase II criteria.  The Governor said he is balancing this idea with the realization that it would be hard to go back after entering a new phase.  The Governor noted that in early May, Northwest Arkansas thought it was ready to enter Phase II because of its low case count.  The Governor plans to make a decision next week.  Asked a follow-up question about the Governor’s previous preference for a statewide approach, the Governor said he is examining the issue now because it is important to get to Phase II, but he was not prepared to discuss details.
  • Asked about seven Arkansas State University (ASU) athletes testing positive, the Governor said he was not surprised since the athletes were coming from different places around the country.  The Governor indicated he saw a letter from ASU to students and other interested parties, and it was constructive on how the University is handling the matter.
  • In response to a question about whether he was concerned about protests leading to increased COVID-19 cases, the Governor said that while he has concerns, he has been impressed with the large percentage of protestors wearing face masks.  He does not want protestors to think we are back to normal, so they should maintain safety precautions.
  • The Governor said there are no plans for a special session.  He has not heard from the House of Representatives in a similar fashion as he heard from the Senate.  The Governor did say there would need to be a lot more work if there was going to be a special session, but he is still gathering information.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith didn’t know the specifics but said that five to six deaths of the nine deaths reported today, June 4, were from nursing home residents who had actually passed away on a previous date, but their deaths had not been reported.
  • Dr. Smith said Benton and Washington Counties in Northwest Arkansas had approximately 200 cases out of 358 cases yesterday, June 3.  Pulaski County and Sevier County saw a decrease yesterday.
  • Elaborating on the Governor’s discussion of Phase II, Dr. Smith said they are looking at restrictions carefully, because they know restrictions can not remain in place forever.  However, the restrictions have allowed for a manageable level of hospitalizations.
  • In response to the question about protestors potentially spreading COVID-19, Dr. Smith said it is possible to safely gather together to make a statement.  If protestors follow the ADH guidelines for large outdoor venues, then they will reduce the opportunity for spread.

 

 

6/3/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 249 additional cases since yesterday, June 2, for a total of 8,067 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 249 cases, four were from a correctional facility and 245 were from community settings.  There are now 2,208 active cases, with 55 in correctional facilities, 102 in nursing homes and 2,051 in the community.  There have been 5,717 recoveries.  Total deaths—142, with 55 from nursing home residents.  There are 138 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 30 on ventilators.

 

3,872 tests were performed yesterday, June 2, with a positivity rate of 4.8%.  7,717 tests out of the June goal of 120,000 have been performed.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Before his Daily COVID-19 Press Conference, Governor Hutchinson discussed the Unified Law Enforcement Response (ULER) to protect peaceful protests.
  • The Governor emphasized that protestors across Arkansas did a great job of peacefully protesting last night, but as the evening progressed, certain individuals committed acts of violence and destruction of property, which will not be tolerated.
  • The Executive Order (EO) described above activated the National Guard.  The Governor said that the command structure within the EO recognizes the autonomy of the individual law enforcement agencies and their chains of command.  The goal is for the federal and state law enforcement agencies to work together to develop a plan, which goes out to the various agencies.  The Governor said he will lift the EO when it is determined there is no longer a significant risk to the health and safety of Arkansans.
  • The Governor said the tragic death of George Floyd has prompted us to look within ourselves to see if we need to do better.  The Governor said we must listen and improve as a society, and he personally wants to hear how we can do better.  He wants to ensure the state provides equal justice and no discriminatory legal action is taken.
  • The Governor mentioned that last night there was a combined force of nine law enforcement agencies (seven state and local agencies and two federal) that protected protestors and property.  He stated that the ULER acted with restraint, and only began to act when the violence began.
  • The Governor showed a rock, which he said was used as a weapon used against law enforcement, and a picture of a broken window at a local McDonald’s to demonstrate the destruction that required law enforcement action.  There were 79 arrests, all of them Arkansans.  While there were no arrests from individuals from out of state, the Governor did say that there was intelligence demonstrating those out of state influencers were in Arkansas to motivate and coordinate violent acts.
  • The Governor opened the COVID-19 portion of the press conference with a slide demonstrating that throughout the state, there are many more nursing homes without an infected staff member or resident than there are nursing homes with an infection.
  • The Governor mentioned that he testified virtually at a Congressional hearing with several Governors regarding their COVID-19 response efforts.  The testimony elicited information that Arkansas is doing very well compared to other states as it relates to keeping nursing home residents and staff safe.
  • The June goal of testing every nursing home resident and employee is to eventually ease restrictions, allowing for normal visitation of nursing home residents.  The Governor said that the tests will be paid for by private insurance, Medicaid, or CARES Act funding.  The state expects that there will be 16,000-18,000 tests of nursing home residents; 20,000-22,000 tests of nursing home staff; 6,000 tests of Alternative Living Facility resident tests; 5,000 tests for ALF staff; and 5,000 tests of residents and staff at Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) facilities.

Colonel Bill Bryant: Director of the Arkansas State Police (ASP)

  • Col. Bryant began by saying that his job as the ASP Director is to protect and serve. The ASP’s core values are integrity and character, and ASP shows dignity and respect to all they encounter.
  • Col. Bryant said the rock thrown through the McDonald’s window triggered last night’s action (June 2).  He would rather have voluntary compliance than confrontation, but they must ensure personnel safety and protect property.  He showed evidence of Molotov cocktail type devices, sprayers for accelerants and shell casings that he said demonstrated the seriousness of the threat to individuals and property.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The 249 new cases have shown an uptick of cases in Pulaski County, where Little Rock is located.
  • ADH will be using Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidance as nursing homes start to reopen, including screening visitors, mask-wearing, and designated areas for visits.
  • Asked about cases associated with reopened activity, Dr. Smith said they are tabulating that information twice a week, but less than 1% of cases are associated with a reopened activity.
  • In response to a question of where the case growth is coming from, Dr. Smith said ADH is seeing growth with individuals under the age of 25, the Latino community, Northwest and Southwest Arkansas, and the poultry industry.  Cases are occurring in households, community events and worksites.  Although worksites are the easiest of those locations to institute strict controls to limit the spread, there are still many cases associated with them.
  • Asked about correctional facility cases, Dr. Smith said there are no active large outbreaks in correctional facilities.  He also stated an inmate is considered recovered 14 days after testing positive unless they are hospitalized or there is a special situation.

Rachel Bunch: Executive Director of the Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA)

  • Ms. Bunch mentioned a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) portal providing data on nursing home residents and staff that demonstrates Arkansas’s nursing homes are performing better than the national average.  Ms. Bunch said that in Arkansas there have been 23.6 infections of nursing home residents per 1,000 residents, versus the national average of 62 per 1,000 residents.  There have been six deaths of nursing home residents per 1,000 residents in Arkansas, versus the national average of 27.5 per 1,000 residents.  There have been 13.9 infections of nursing home staff per 1,000 employees, versus the national average of 39.5 per 1,000 staff members.  Ms. Bunch said Arkansas has been very fortunate to have 0 nursing home staff deaths.
  • The reason for the testing initiative is so there can be a baseline for patients and staff infections, so AHCA and ADH can improve their decision making for reopening nursing homes.  They are close to a plan that is tied to testing results.  There will be an individual facility strategy, once testing is done, and depending on whether there are no infections, the facility can reopen with restrictions.

Cindy Gillespie: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)

  • Secretary Gillespie said Human Development Centers (HDC) and the Arkansas Health Center (AHC) are notifying parents and guardians that COVID-19 testing will be occurring beginning next week.  Testing will occur June 9-11 at the AHC and June 15-17 at the HDC.  It is a large logistical exercise, but DHS has plans in place to ensure adequate care even if there is a large increase in positive cases, as the emphasis is keeping residents safe.

 

 

6/2/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 375 additional cases since yesterday, June 1, for a total of 7,818 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 375 cases, one was from a correctional facility and 374 were from community settings. This is the highest daily number for community spread cases. There are now 2,115 active cases, with 53 in correctional facilities, 73 in nursing homes and 1,989 in the community. There have been 5,567 recoveries. Total deaths—136. There are 132 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 31 on ventilators.

 

3,807 tests were performed yesterday, June 1, with a positivity rate of 4.4%. The Governor stated that the June testing goal is 120,000, with approximately 50,000 of those from nursing home residents and staff.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today, June 2.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor began his press conference by discussing the State Revenue Report for May. The Governor stated that in May, collections were up $80 million over the revised forecast, and up $287 million year-to-date over the revised forecast. The state is 3.4% below state revenue collected last year. The Governor believed this was extraordinarily good based on their initial projections. He was delighted with state income tax collections and said the report indicated sales tax revenue demonstrated confidence in economic recovery. The Governor stated there are decisions to make based on the revenue report, such as evaluating agency needs and whether to “loosen their belts.”
  • Discussing the protests in Arkansas relating to the death of George Floyd, the Governor said that the protests were peaceful up until about 10 p.m., which he appreciates, but then it turned violent, which is intolerable. The Governor is committed to peaceful protest. The Governor believes law enforcement have done a very good job of protecting protestors, while also enforcing the rule of law and protecting property. The Governor was at the Arkansas State Police’s command center last night. Being there taught him the complexity of the decisions that law enforcement must make: sometimes what you think may be the right decision could lead to a confrontation or escalation in violence. The Arkansas State Police arrested five people, all Arkansans.
  • The Governor showed a picture of a protest in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the Governor previously practiced law. The picture showed protestors not social distancing but wearing masks, which he said shows they are taking COVID-19 seriously.
  • The Governor said the spike in cases reflects a dramatic increase in testing. He and Dr. Smith will be doing a deeper dive to better understand the numbers.
  • In response to a question about whether there was a relationship between the protestors’ message and COVID-19’s impact on minority communities, the Governor stressed he is not in a position to speak for all the protestors. However, he did say that he has spoken to protestors, and while the death of George Floyd is an obvious source of anger, it goes deeper. It can involve concerns over the lack of access to good healthcare in minority communities. The Governor mentioned the work of the minority health commission, which works to remediate healthcare disparities in minority communities, and the state’s investment in minority healthcare and responding to COVID-19 in minority communities.
  • Asked about statements from President Trump, the Governor has not requested military resources from the Federal Government to respond to protests and does not anticipate doing so in the future. The Governor stated the state had received a preliminary inquiry for Arkansas National Guard resources, but no official request.
  • The Governor reiterated that Phase II is on pause for now, because it would not be appropriate until they have more data demonstrating a decrease in cases and hospitalizations. Asked about regional restrictions or lifting of restrictions, the Governor said the lesson is a low case count today does not mean there will be a low case count tomorrow.
  • The Governor said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website is functioning well and securely, continuing to push money out and approve applicants. However, he has not received any additional information from law enforcement regarding the data breach.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Cases from Northwest Arkansas and Sevier County, in Southwest Arkansas, continue to drive the case totals. 29 cases in Pulaski County were at a nursing home in Jacksonville. Five of the 136 deaths are from the Latino community.
  • The June goal of testing 120,000 Arkansans was commended by ADH’s federal partners and Dr. Smith believes the state is on a good pace to meet its goal.
  • Asked about the change in percentages from when they are reported to the graphs shown by the Governor, Dr. Smith said what he reports daily is often not finalized, but he and the Governor want to provide the most recent numbers at the press conferences. There are often adjustments that must be made when all the numbers come in for the day.
  • Dr. Smith was asked if he was concerned about the spread of COVID-19 due to protests. He said if protestors were not social distancing or wearing masks, it would be tragic for a protestor to protest an injustice but then contract COVID-19. He said it is challenging to do contact tracing for people who have taken part in protests.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at ADH

  • Dr. Romeo spoke about the COVID-19 Latinx Stakeholder Group, which has been meeting since the beginning of May. Their primary goal is to communicate the significance of COVID-19 to the Latino community in Spanish to make them aware of how to avoid its spread and to bring awareness of the accessibility of testing. The Stakeholder Group is preparing videos and texts in Spanish.

 

 

6/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 190 additional cases since yesterday, May 31, for a total of 7,443 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 190 cases, three were from correctional facilities and 187 were from community settings. This includes six healthcare workers, six nursing home residents and eight nursing home workers. There are now 1,909 active cases, with 53 in correctional facilities, 78 in nursing homes and 1,778 in the community. There have been 5,401 recoveries. Total deaths—133. There are 121 hospitalized patients, with 26 on ventilators.

 

3,798 tests were performed yesterday, May 31, with a positivity rate of 6%. Overall, over 80,808 tests were done in May.

 

The below chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

 

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives issued today, June 1.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his daily press conference in Rogers at Mercy Hospital. While in Northwest Arkansas, the Governor discussed the large increase in cases with leaders from the Marshallese and Latino communities, as well as some poultry industry leaders.
  • The Governor mentioned that one of the purposes of meeting with the minority communities in Northwest Arkansas was to determine how he and Dr. Smith could best communicate their message. It was relayed to the Governor the importance of social media and influencers to those populations. Their trusted officials could be their doctor or priest, instead of the Governor. The Governor noted that the state wants to ensure that the minority communities understand that the tests are free, but he did note that sometimes healthcare costs can be an impediment to good healthcare.
  • The Governor addressed the protests that have ensued in Arkansas the past several days due to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota. The Governor said the senseless death has rightfully led to protests and outrage, which is understandable, and he respects and supports peaceful protest as an important part of democracy. However, he did say that violence and destruction of property is counter to the message of what is trying to be conveyed by the protests: reform of the criminal justice system and the need for peace and love. The Governor will be hosting a 4 p.m. press conference to discuss this matter further. As some of the more combustible protests have occurred in the capital city, the Mayor of Little Rock has imposed a curfew, beginning tonight from 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.
  • The Governor reviewed the slides and noted that for a long period of time, Northwest Arkansas cases were averaging around 20 a day, but the dramatic growth in Northwest Arkansas is now driving the numbers statewide. Almost 40% of the hospitalizations are in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Asked about the poultry industry having a large number of cases, the Governor said it is not just about the poultry industry or the workplace, but about how to reduce community spread. The poultry industry does their own contact tracing, and the Governor believes they have set a national model for best practices, taking the extra step to test every worker and applicant, provide healthcare, and ensuring best practices to keep the supply chain open.
  • A reporter asked about conflicting messages, with cases going up, but restrictions being lifted. The Governor reiterated that the state has gradually lifted restrictions so it could measure the impact of those restrictions being lifted. However, no data was available to support the connection between lifting restrictions and increased cases. The Governor noted the state would have to learn to manage its way through the crisis, as the state can’t be restricted forever.
  • Asked about what could be done to ensure protests do not become violent, the Governor said he believed law enforcement has done a good job respecting protesters’ rights but taking quick action when property destruction occurs. Asked a follow-up question about his call with the President and other Governors today, the Governor noted that while the President is looking at the national picture, the Governor is confident the state is appropriately respecting protestor rights as well as simultaneously protecting property.
  • In response to a question about whether the state will mandate mask-wearing by law enforcement, the Governor indicated he does not know why law enforcement officers were not wearing masks, so he was not prepared to mandate mask-wearing. He did note that from the pictures he had seen, protestors and law enforcement had done a pretty good job of wearing masks and social distancing.
  • Regarding workers’ compensation for employees impacted by COVID-19, the Governor did note that there may be open legal questions, as it can be difficult to prove the infection occurred at work. That said, the Governor was happy to hear when employers ensure employees who become infected do not lose pay.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith stated that while the testing in May was excellent, the state needs to further increase testing. As a comparison, Dr. Smith stated that a colleague in Tennessee notified him that they had tested 3.8% of their population last month. His private goal is to test 4% of Arkansas’s population in June.
  • In Northwest Arkansas, there have been 1,749 positive cases and a 5.8% positivity rate. There have been 281 tests per 10,000 people, compared to 442 per 10,000 statewide. Of the 985 active cases in Northwest Arkansas, 43% are Latino. 28% of the positive cases in Northwest Arkansas involve the poultry industry.
  • 571 poultry workers statewide have tested positive. 392 of these are active cases, with 73% being Latino poultry workers. Dr. Smith noted that while the poultry industry contact tracing does not replace ADH contact tracing, it helps ADH more readily identify worker contacts for those who are infected.
  • As all nursing home residents and employees will be tested in June, Dr. Smith said that some residents and employees will be retested, if they have not been tested recently.

 

5/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

 

 

There have been 239 additional cases since yesterday, May 28, for a total of 6,777 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 239 cases, two were from correctional facilities and 237 were from community settings, including 25 healthcare workers.  There are now 1,699 active cases, with 144 in correctional facilities, 73 in nursing homes and 1,482 in the community.  There have been 4,946 recoveries, with more recoveries yesterday than new cases.  Total deaths—132.  There are 113 hospitalized patients, a new peak, with 24 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 384 residents and 245 workers have tested positive.

 

2,702 tests were performed yesterday, May 28, with a positivity rate of 4.1%.  Overall, over 70,000 tests have been done in May.  There is an overall positivity rate of 3.9%.

 

The above chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  The red line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The blue line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor said that the Technical Advisory Group, which will investigate technologies associated with contact tracing and testing measures, will meet for the first time on June 2.
  • Regarding Lake Hamilton, a popular outdoor destination, the Governor said that the Garland County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas Game and Fish will provide support to one another this weekend, reminding people of the importance of social distancing while on the lake.
  • As ADH does contact tracing, they continue to find only a very small percent of infected individuals, less than 2%, have visited a facility that reopened this month.
  • The Governor noted there have been five different epidemics in five different stages across the state. The seven-day rolling average for regions in Arkansas is as follows:
    • Northeast Arkansas is on a downward trajectory
    • Northwest Arkansas, which accounted for 79 cases today, is trending much higher
    • Southwest Arkansas, a large poultry processing region, is seeing an upward trend, driven by Sevier County
    • Central Arkansas has been consistent and flat in its trend line for some time
    • Southeast Arkansas, after its peak due to prison outbreaks, is flat and at a low level
  • Asked about the current peak in hospitalizations, the Governor said he would not agree with the statement that this peak is worse than the first peak.  He said that ultimately depends on how fast and how far hospitalizations go up and down.
  • Asked if he knew why cases keep increasing, the Governor stated that ADH is exploring those details with contract tracing.  He said that with community spread it takes more work doing contact tracing, but ADH has a good handle on it.
  • The Governor said that the state is looking at the language barrier being a reason for the increase in cases in Northwest Arkansas.  The Governor will be in Northwest Arkansas on Monday, June 1, and he will be speaking with the Hispanic community about working on increased outreach.
  • Regarding a question about local jurisdictions having the authority to require individuals to wear a mask, the Governor said he’s happy to talk with Mayors about the issues they are facing and to work with them.  As it relates to local business owners, the Governor said shopkeepers have a great deal to say about their own premises, and they could post a sign requiring a mask.
  • The Governor has not made an announcement regarding state employee bonuses, but he will soon.  Regarding the state budget, it was previously revised downward to reflect a downward trend in state revenue.  However, last month the state beat the revenue forecast and he expects the same for May.  He doesn’t expect any further budget cuts.
  • Asked about additional restrictions for nursing homes, the Governor is not imposing any new restrictions, but beginning June 1, every nursing home resident and employee will be tested for COVID-19.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith reported that the state had now tested over 4% of the population for COVID-19.
  • Dr. Smith announced there will be a testing event today, May 29, in Dardanelle and tomorrow, May 30, in Fayetteville, West Memphis, DeQueen and Pine Bluff.  Dr. Smith mentioned that ADH has worked to test extensively in minority communities, and he was happy to announce that ADH would be testing at a Historically Black College and University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, when they are in Pine Bluff.  The goal is to test at least 500 at each event.  Next weekend they will host testing events in Jonesboro, Wrightsville and El Dorado.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that 25% of the active cases are in the Hispanic Community, with the acceleration likely associated with the poultry industry, which has had over 400 cases.
  • Asked about where contact tracers are locating case origination, Dr. Smith said they are seeing the largest clusters in workplaces. They see a lot of workplace cases because of higher risk factors in workplace environments, where people spend a lot of time in close proximity with others.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about a tweet from President Trump where President Trump said the U.S. was terminating its relationship with the WHO.  Dr. Smith said the WHO has done a lot of good things, and he hopes the U.S. can find a way to support them again.

Stacy Hurst: Secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (DPHT)

  • Campgrounds, including tent camping, and bathhouses will reopen on June 1.
  • The ADPHT has collaborated closely with federal partners, and Secretary Hurst announced that several popular national parks, including the Buffalo River and Hot Springs National Park, are open today, May 29, and others will reopen in the near future.

 

 

5/28/2020

COVID-19 Cases

 

 

There have been 261 additional cases since yesterday, May 27, for a total of 6,483 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 261 cases, all were from community settings, making it the highest number of community cases in one day. There are now 1,830 active cases with 374 in correctional facilities, 71 in nursing homes, and 1,385 in the community. There have been 4,583 recoveries. Total deaths—125. There are 104 hospitalized patients, with 27 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 372 residents and 230 workers have tested positive.

 

2,966 tests were performed yesterday, May 27. Overall, 67,500 tests have been done in May. There is an overall positivity rate of 3.9%.

 

The above chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The blue line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1. The red line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day. This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction. The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Asked if there was a common thread in the surge in cases in the Latino community, the Governor indicated that they are investigating. A large number are employed in the food processing industry, so the state is looking to see if there is a correlation. The Governor said that the increase may have to do with expanded information due to testing.
  • In response to a question regarding liability protection mentioned in the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force’s (AERTF) Interim Report, the Governor said there was a high level of need set forth in the report, and that the report could help educate policymakers of the need. The Governor said he has always supported reasonable tort reform, but as far as whether something should occur in a special session or in next year’s legislative session, the Governor said he needs to hear from more members of the legislature on which path makes more sense.
  • Asked whether there may need to be a regional approach to managing COVID-19 in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson said he believes taking a statewide approach has been successful. The Governor reiterated that the state is not going back to more restrictive guidelines and directives, so everyone must remain vigilant statewide.
  • In response to a question about whether there may be more peaks in the future, the Governor’s response was that the state has never been through anything like this before, so one can’t gauge history to accurately answer that question. As far as mandating masks, the Governor doesn’t think the state needs to change from a guideline to a directive, especially because it is so hard to enforce, but he and ADH will continue to remind the state about the need for masks.
  • The Governor has received and quickly reviewed the AERTF Interim Report, but has not been able to fully digest the material.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Of the 261 cases, over 100 were in Benton and Washington Counties in Northwest Arkansas. 42% have Spanish surnames. 85% of the cases in Rogers, in Benton County, were in the Latino community, while 40% of the cases in Springdale, in Washington County, were in the Latino community. The average age for someone testing positive was 40 in Benton County, 38 in Washington County, and 26 in Jonesboro.
  • There will be increased outreach efforts to the Hispanic community to help them protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.
  • Asked about how many were hospitalized in Northwest Arkansas, Dr. Smith said that he didn’t have specifics, but hospitals were not anywhere near capacity.
  • Dr. Smith hasn’t seen data connecting the recent increase in cases to Memorial Day weekend activities.
  • Asked about their contact tracing efforts, Dr. Smith said the protocol is to try to have contacts of those infected tested as soon as possible after a contact tracer makes contact. As there are 2.8 contacts on an average case, of those 261 infected, there may be 992 people that may need to quarantine.
  • Asked about testing efforts at food processing plants, Dr. Smith said some employers have engaged in efforts on their own. Dr. Smith elaborated that ADH has an excellent partnership with the private sector, but for some, it makes more sense to go onsite, others not as much. He stated ADH is willing to work with employers on testing.
  • Dr. Smith said ADH has emphasized worksites, but it’s larger than a workspace issue. For instance, the fastest-growing age group for positive cases is those that are younger than 18. Therefore, ADH will continue to add additional testing, including testing events.
  • To follow up on a question about asymptomatic cases, Dr. Smith said that more cases have been asymptomatic overall. He elaborated that half of the individuals testing positive had no symptoms at the time tested, while local health units are reporting that 74% reported no symptoms at testing.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force (AERTF)

  • The AERTF Interim Report will be published tomorrow on www.arkansasready.com. He indicated that they will ensure that key provisions are in Spanish.
  • The Interim Report highlights the following needs: testing and contact tracing; business liability mitigation; childcare resources, funding, and availability; workforce training; and increased broadband access.
  • Steuart is concerned by the increase in cases, but optimistic. He is glad that the statistics are not showing a correlation between the steps to reopen and the increase in cases. He believes it is important to look at the data comprehensively, not just one dataset.
  • Steuart said the lack of certainty regarding liability is seen as a drag on the state’s ability to recover economically. It has been the resounding theme of the AERTF.

 

 

5/27/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 97 additional cases since yesterday, May 26, for a total of 6,277 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 97 cases, two were from correctional facilities and 95 from community settings.  There are now 1,733 active cases with 466 in correctional facilities, 68 in nursing homes and 1,199 in the community.  There have been 4,424 recoveries.  Total deaths—120.  There are 108 hospitalized patients, with 22 on ventilators.  The peak number of hospitalizations is 109.

 

In nursing homes, 364 residents and 224 workers have tested positive.  There have been 301 cases associated with the poultry industry, with 220 active cases.

 

4,033 tests were performed yesterday, May 26, with a positivity rate of 1.9%.  Overall, 66,279 tests have been done in May and 117,076 total.

 

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor was in Jonesboro, Arkansas for today’s press conference.  The Governor mentioned that this was the first time he had been back in Jonesboro since the day after a tornado ripped through the city on March 28.  He commended the city on its recovery during these challenging times.  The Governor went by the Jonesboro Division of Workforce Services (DWS) Office and thanked them for all their hard work in assisting those that are going through difficult financial times.
  • The Governor showed a slide with the number and growth rate of COVID-19 by age group.  The 0-17 and 18-24 age groups were highlighted as seeing large increases, 46% and 32% respectively.  The Governor mentioned that those age groups may feel they are invincible but need to be conscious that their decisions impact others.  Asked if children are vulnerable because of the increase in cases for those between 0-17 in age, the Governor said that the importance in illustrating that increase was because children can be carriers and their actions can impact those that are vulnerable.  The Governor understands that children and teenagers often can be undisciplined, but it is important for them to think through their actions.
  • The Governor also showed slides demonstrating that the seven-day rolling average is on a downward trend for infections and hospitalizations in Northeast Arkansas, where Jonesboro is located, but that Northwest Arkansas has seen a 58% increase in infections this past week.
  • Asked about how the state is preparing for the fall, where there could be an increase in COVID-19 cases and the flu, the Governor said the state is spending a lot of time now building the infrastructure so the state can be prepared for a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.  Specifically, the state is investing in contact tracing, testing resources, and looking at antibody testing and how to implement widespread vaccinations.
  • Receiving a question about whether the state has developed a comprehensive plan for K-12 education next year, the Governor said that process is ongoing.  The Governor is working with Secretary Key from the Arkansas Department of Education and superintendents from around the state to develop specific plans.  The Governor said likely there will be blended education, with both classroom and online education. They will likely be requesting funding to help those areas in Arkansas without access to high-speed broadband, so those students aren’t hampered.  Asked about the timeline, the Governor said they expect school to start at the usual time, but there may be additional training for teachers as well as structural changes allowing for more classroom space.
  • Asked again about elections in November, the Governor said that voters should be assured that there will be elections in November and that he will work hard to ensure voter and poll worker safety.  The timeline for making a decision is August, because County Clerks have to start printing ballots and preparing for the election.
  • Asked what the state is doing to assist those impacted by the March tornado that destroyed parts of Jonesboro, the Governor highlighted that the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) is administering a federal disaster assistance program.  The time period to apply is from May 28 to June 10, and the Governor said that more information could be obtained by calling 1-888-683-ADEM.
  • Asked about going on national television programs, the Governor said that he is comfortable highlighting Arkansas’s efforts nationally.
  • Asked if he had anything to say to those that have suffered economically, the Governor said his heart goes out to those that have suffered economically because he understands that there have been real hardships.  He stressed that the state has worked hard to get assistance out, including having 60 people work during the holiday weekend to process economic assistance claims.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith said that he has not seen a correlation between the rise in cases and locations that have reopened this month.  A very small percentage, less than 1% of those infected, have reported going to a restaurant, barbershop, church, daycare, gym, or hotel within the previous 14 days.
  • In Craighead County, where Jonesboro is located, there have been 191 cases overall, or 4% of the total, with 50 active cases.   There are 10 currently hospitalized in Jonesboro, with one on a ventilator, and no reported deaths.
  • Dr. Smith said that 575 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, a 9.2% positivity rate, and 447 have recovered. In Craighead County, 35 healthcare workers have tested positive.
  • Asked about the swim party in Paragould, near Jonesboro, where a COVID-19 outbreak occurred, Dr. Smith said he’s not concerned about a widespread outbreak there, but it’s a warning for everyone that there is little margin for error with COVID-19.  He doesn’t want to focus on one event, but to learn from the event, so there’s not a repeat elsewhere.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about the percentage of cases that have been asymptomatic.  He said he doesn’t have that data, but ADH will work to come up with their best estimate.  It is likely a significant number.
  • Asked about a woman who had previously been COVID-19 positive who wanted to provide plasma for her husband who is currently infected, Dr. Smith said that, while a promising treatment, there is no definitive proof of plasma treatment’s effectiveness. Also, generally, it has been used for those that are very sick, where the potential benefit is greater than the harm.
  • Dr. Smith said it was a concern that Latinos make up 10% of the state’s total cases, but 20% of the active cases.  Asked why there may be an increase in cases with the Latino population, Dr. Smith said it may have been a delay because of lack of access to testing.  Also, there have been clusters of infections in the poultry industry, where many workers are Latino.

 

 

5/26/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 151 additional cases since yesterday, May 25, for a total of 6,180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 151 cases, one was from a correctional facility and 150 from community settings.  There are now 1,729 active cases with 466 in correctional facilities, 72 in nursing homes and 1,191 in the community.  There have been 4,332 recoveries.  Total deaths—119.  There are 107 hospitalized patients, with 18 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 361 residents and 215 workers have tested positive.  There have been 301 cases associated with the poultry industry.

 

2,984 tests were performed yesterday, May 25, with a positivity rate of 3.3%.  Overall, 61,922 tests have been done in May.

 

The above chart shows the trend in cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas and the “second surge” that has been in the news over the weekend.  The blue line is the cumulative number of cases in the state since March 1.  The red line shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported each day.  This approach controls for variations in data collection and correction.  The data are from the Arkansas Department of Health and are current as of this afternoon.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor, while not pleased with an increase in cases, did highlight that the hospitalization rate remains low along with the positivity rate.
  • The Governor mentioned the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) predictive modeling.  He said on March 25, UAMS projected there would be 8,000 cases by May 20.  Their newest model predicts 8,500 cases on June 23.  The Governor said that while the updated UAMS predictive models are useful, he hopes the state does not reach the projected 8,500 cases.
  • The Governor recognizes the vast majority of people are following the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines.  However, the Governor said more than a few put their convenience above others.  He noted that Arkansas is at a critical point in our journey and that whether we continue to go up or going down in case numbers totally depends on discipline and a commitment to avoid circumstances that contribute to COVID-19’s spread.
  • The Governor said the Department of Commerce worked all weekend processing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, and they have sent out $16.8 million to over 5,000 claimants.  There are another 10,000 people eligible that haven’t filed claims.
  • Dr. Smith will remain as ADH Secretary until August 28 before going to work for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  This will allow for an extensive transition with the existing and new team.  Dr. Jose Romero will serve as Interim ADH Secretary.  Dr. Romero has served the state for over a decade and is a recognized leader, including chairing a national organization on immunization practices.
  • The Governor said the state has more than ample hospital capacity, so he doesn’t foresee an issue if hospitalizations continue to rise.  The state will continue to allow elective procedures. He and his team have learned from the past three months that they listened to the extraordinary projections regarding hospitalizations, so they stopped all other medical activities, but it cost hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, while only a little over 100 hospital beds were utilized.
  • Asked about crowds at Lake Hamilton, the Governor acknowledged that the state would look into the issue and will look at ways to encourage better utilization of the state’s guidelines for the next holiday or weekend where there are concerns.  The Governor is not sure what exactly can be done other than reminding people to do the right thing.  The Governor advised some lakes are under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission while some are under the jurisdiction of the Army Corp of Engineers.  However, ultimately, the state has primarily issued guidelines, not directives, and law enforcement is only being asked to remind people of best practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Governor couldn’t provide additional details from the swimming party COVID-19 breakout in Paragould because of privacy concerns.
  • Asked about the politicization of wearing masks and other measures regarding COVID-19, the Governor said he can set a good example regarding putting public health above other considerations.  He elaborated by saying it’s not about politics or political philosophy, but about being a good citizen and neighbor.
  • With bars reopening today, the Governor said they have strict requirements to reopen, but he is delighted they’re paying attention.  He recognizes bar owners have made investments in their business and he wants them to reopen if they can, or use their best judgment if they don’t want to reopen right now.
  • Asked about when the Governor’s Mansion would reopen, the Governor said that it was subject to the same rules as anyone else.  He is anxious for the public to have access to the Governor’s Mansion.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Of the 6,180 cases, 50.7% are White, and 37.1% are African-American, with African-Americans making up 37.2% of the COVID-19 deaths.  10.2% of the total cases have been Hispanic, but of the 150 community cases yesterday, 42% were Hispanic.
  • Of the 6,180 cases, 39.3% are from the age range of 25-44, while 14.3% are 65+, but those over the age of 65 account for 74% of the deaths.
  • Broken down by area of the state, the percentages of those that have died are as follows: Southeast Arkansas-31%; Central Arkansas-30%; Northeast Arkansas-19%; Southwest Arkansas-11%; and Northwest Arkansas-8.4%.
  • Discussing the numbers from around the state and the percentages of those infected and deceased, Dr. Smith commented that COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus.
  • Moving forward, while there will be public health intervention, individual behaviors and decisions will have to reflect a desire to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Asked why we should worry about a disease where 99% recover, Dr. Smith said that if 1% of the state’s population died, it would lead to 30,000 deaths, which is unacceptable.
  • Asked about a swim party in Paragould, Dr. Smith said that with gatherings, bad things can happen if you don’t take precautions.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about a New York Times story saying that Northwest Arkansas had one of the largest percentage increases in cases, and what efforts were being undertaken to protect the Latino community. Dr. Smith said ADH was doing several things, including additional testing and advertising in Spanish language media in Northwest Arkansas. Dr. Romero and another ADH doctor speak Spanish, so they are helping, as well.  ADH has made a special emphasis recently for testing in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Asked about summer camps telling parents that children should be tested before being able to attend, Dr. Smith said it is great the camps are encouraging testing, and asymptomatic children can be tested at one of the 79 local health units around Arkansas.
  • Asked about his departure, Dr. Smith said he had no disagreement with the approach to addressing COVID-19 that was being taken in Arkansas and that working for the Governor has been one of the highlights of his career.  Colleagues told Dr. Smith that Admiral Redd was retiring as the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the CDC and encouraged him to apply in February.
  • Dr. Smith said, based on the initial projections, they were concerned there could be 1,000 or more hospitalizations, and they made plans based on those projections, which could be utilized if necessary in the future.  However, he does not anticipate the need to utilize those plans.

 

 

5/22/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 154 additional cases since Thursday, May 21, for a total of 5,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 154 cases, 19 were from correctional facilities and 135 from community settings.  There are now 1,470 active cases with 510 in correctional facilities, 86 in nursing homes and 874 in the community.  There have been 4,029 recoveries.  Total deaths—113.  There are 81 hospitalized patients, with 14 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 350 residents have tested positive and 201 workers.

 

2,909 tests were performed yesterday, May 21, with a positivity rate of 4.4%.  Overall, 102,041 tests have been done in total.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor said that the state has been fortunate because there is a 14.7% national unemployment rate, versus a rate of 10.2% in Arkansas.  102,000 individuals are unemployed in Arkansas.
  • The Governor said that as of noon today, 8,198 Ready for Business Grants have been approved, with funds being sent out today and this weekend
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system, as of noon today, May 22, has paid 7,105 claims, and 3,000 more will be paid tonight.  The state will have 60-70 employees working over the weekend to process claims and handle calls.
  • The Governor said that while yesterday’s numbers, May 21, were very high, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has traced 61% of those community infections yesterday.  The Governor said three households in Washington County had 16 of 33 cases in that County, while in Paragould, eight cases were from the same street.
  • The Governor does not know the specifics off the top of his head on the number of Ready for Business Grants that have been reviewed or the dollar amount approved.  The state is still determining eligibility on some clams because the applicants provided insufficient or wrong information.
  • The Governor does not believe he has changed position on no-excuse absentee voting.  It’s too early to be talking about using emergency powers for elections in November.
  • Asked about some legislators being perturbed about the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division (ABC) not being present for a legislative committee meeting yesterday, the Governor said he directed them not to appear.  He said he was sorry if there was a misunderstanding, but he had told the Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker that the DOC Secretary and ABC Director would not be attending.  He appreciates and understands the need for legislative oversight, which is why the DOC Secretary will be available for a larger committee meeting next week (Arkansas Legislative Council) and ADH officials were present yesterday.  He needed the DOC Secretary 100% focused on ensuring PUA payments go out this week. The Governor did not believe that the purpose of having the ABC Director at the legislative committee meeting, to discuss the cease and desist letter and potential loss of a liquor license for the Fort Smith concert scheduled before the ADH Directive allowed, was the appropriate forum.  He said the concert promoter could have appealed the ADH Directive and ABC decision to the Board of Health and/or the ABC Board.
  • With this being Memorial Day weekend, the Governor was asked if he was worried about an increase in cases.  The Governor indicated that he is not overly concerned with numbers today because of contact tracing, and the hospitalization rate and recovery rate trending down.  The Governor believes that with more information, the public will make better decisions.  He asked the public to remember there is a virus to manage and to avoid the spread.
  • President Trump made a statement about how churches need to reopen now.  The Governor said that churches have been open in Arkansas for several weeks, with ADH guidance, but some may not be comfortable reopening right now, but that’s been left to the discretion of the worship leaders.
  • Asked if the Governor is looking to institute Phase II in the Fall because of the increase in cases, the Governor said he didn’t believe it would be that far away.  The Governor is not looking at Phase II right now in the short term, but he does focus on the positivity rate, and if it remains steady and low, then they will be going down the road to entering Phase II.
  • Regarding whether state employees are required to wear masks, the Governor said that they have the same requirements as the private sector.  State employees are not required to wear masks at their desk, but they are required to social distance and wear a mask if they can’t social distance.  The state is working to make sure masks are available upon employees return from remote work.
  • Asked about what steps the state may take if there is a second wave of infections since the Governor said that the state was not going back to the restrictions that have been lifted, the Governor indicated that he doesn’t think a second wave will occur, if it does occur, until later this year.  He said it is all about contact tracing, and if they do that well, they will be in a position to maintain as close to a normal life as possible while keeping an eye on the virus.  His focus is not what are we going to close next, but how can we be open and safe.
  • The Southeastern Conference (SEC) said that voluntary workouts for teams in the SEC could begin on June 8.  The Governor said he is glad they’re working towards having sports next season, but it  sounds like the SEC is moving in the same direction as Arkansas guidelines.  A reporter asked if the Governor would defer to the SEC for college sports guidelines.  The Governor said ADH issued guidelines for K-12 team sports yesterday but will evaluate for intercollegiate sports later.
  • The percentage rate of infection is a key indicator for the Governor since it shows the seriousness of the spread, but he also looks at whether there is sufficient hospital space and ventilators.
  • Asked about legislators who are saying that it is hard to justify the existing state of emergency, the Governor said that he has laid out the mandate provided to the Governor of the state, and said without those powers, it would be very challenging for him and Dr. Smith to do their jobs providing for the public’s safety.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Regarding the 224 community cases yesterday, May 21, they contacted 137 of them.  24%, or 53 people, are known contacts of previous cases.  37 of 137 are connected with clusters at employment sites.  Dr. Smith said four sites of employment had pockets of positive cases.  Those facilities are: Nebo Poultry (where there were 21 cases reported yesterday), Ozark Poultry, St. Bernard’s Hospital, and a Cargill food processing plant.  Only two reported going to a restaurant and two at a  gym, so they are still not seeing clusters from newly reopened activities.
  • On May 25, ADH will update the directive on elected surgeries, removing restrictions for sicker patients, on the length of hospital stay, but still requiring testing within 72 days.  Notable changes will include no requirement for testing if it is a medical clinic outside a hospital and if the procedure is relatively minimal in nature (Dr. Smith mentioned out-patient cataract surgery).

Colonel Nate Todd: Secretary of Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs

  • The state tested all 90 veterans in their North Little Rock veterans home, and they were all negative.  They will soon test the residents in the Fayetteville facility.
  • The Governor and Adjutant General for the Arkansas National Guard will lay a wreath at the Veterans Cemetery on Monday, May 25, which will be on Facebook Live, but not open to the public.  Visitors can still visit gravesites.

Stacy Hurst: Secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (DPHT)

  • Secretary Hurst mentioned that several popular state park trails and facilities will be open for this weekend.  She reminded visitors not to congregate and be mindful of water levels and potential flooding.

 


5/21/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 455 additional cases since Wednesday, May 20, for a total of 5,458 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  This is the largest single-day increase since reporting began.  Of those 455 cases, 229 were from the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City and 226 from community settings.  There are now 1,433 active cases with 543 in correctional facilities, 94 in nursing homes and 796 in the community.  There have been 3,915 recoveries.  Total deaths—110.  There are 86 hospitalized patients, with 14 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 330 residents and 197 workers have tested positive.

 

2,616 tests were performed yesterday, May 20, with a positivity rate of 4.4%.  Of the 550 people tested in Forrest City, Arkansas, there were 33 positive cases.  There have been over 2,000 tests a day since May 12.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor mentioned that low-middle income folks, especially service industry workers, are bearing the brunt of the economic impact from COVID-19 because they may not be able to work remotely, so he is mindful of providing an opportunity to work in a safe fashion.
  • Crater of Diamonds State Park will open tomorrow, May 22, with some restrictions, including a limitation of 500 people per day.  Tickets can be bought online.
  • K-12 team sports are allowed effective June 1, with many restrictions on how they can occur and which sports are available.  They will revisit the issue on June 30.  The following are some details:
    • Ticket sales online, if possible.
    • Team practice and competition prohibited for close contact sports such as basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, soccer and martial arts.
    • Practices would be allowed using individual equipment and physical distancing.
    • Temperature checks for coaches and staff.
    • Face coverings for those 10 years old and older, with athletes removing them during activity.
    • Showers prohibited, with locker rooms for storage only.
    • Frequent sanitizations of facilities and equipment.
    • Avoid huddles, high-fives, and other non-sport related contact.
    • Practice and competitions would be allowed for limited contact team sports like baseball, softball, track, gymnastics and swimming.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website is secure and operational as of yesterday morning, May 20.  As of noon today, May 21, over 15,000 have submitted weekly claims.  Approximately 5,000 people will have payments submitted this evening or tomorrow by direct deposit or in the near future by debit card.
  • The Governor received a briefing from the forensics team regarding the data breach associated with the PUA Portal.  External reviewers are confident in the site’s security.  Asked if the forensics team provided updates on what occurred, the Governor said it remains to be seen the intent of the party who gained access, and anytime you have a breach, there are flaws with the system that you must fix.
  • Asked about mail-in voting in November, the Governor said he supports no-excuse early voting like what has been articulated in Executive Orders this spring, but it is too early to know whether there will be an emergency in the fall.  The Governor said that mail-in voting is not the law in Arkansas, security issues haven’t been resolved, and he doesn’t feel like it has broad support.  If Dr. Smith recommends easing voting restrictions, the Governor will consider his opinion.
  • Asked why he wasn’t concerned about the uptick in cases, the Governor said they had been very careful in phasing in reopenings and lifting restrictions gradually.  The Governor said the state isn’t going backward on imposing restrictions, so they must balance managing the economy while at the same time preventing the spread.  If guidelines are followed by the public then we will be successful.
  • Regarding a letter from the State Senate on a special session for limiting liability for businesses that reopen, the Governor said he has seen the letter but hasn’t seen a draft bill.  He wants to hear from the House of Representatives to see what their thinking is on the subject.
  • Asked about colleges reopening in the fall, the Governor said he is working with them so they can responsibly reopen because he wants them to reopen.  The key will be increasing testing capacity and the ability to rapidly respond to positive cases.  He anticipates proposals for the CARES Act steering committee to consider for utilizing funds for a statewide approach.
  • The Governor became passionate when told about a restaurant in Benton that had to close because people wouldn’t follow the ADH guidelines.  The Governor said he dined-in recently at a restaurant and the manager said that they had workers who were being cursed at regarding the rules.  The manager asked the Governor if he could make it clear that the state not the restaurant or its employees are mandating these guidelines. The Governor said behavior by some patrons doing things of that nature is embarrassing.  People need to know that these businesses are doing their best, so don’t blame the owner or waitstaff.  He said it is a very selfish act to say you’re not going to abide by the guidelines because you’re putting others at risk.
  • Asked about potential parental concerns about allowing team sports the day of a large spike in cases, the Governor said they are providing freedom of choice for parents.  This is an individual decision for parents, and he recognizes there will be peer pressure, but the government’s job is to provide guidance based on the best health information.  He and Dr. Smith have tried to be transparent, sharing information and not hiding bad news, to encourage confidence that the best decisions are being made.
  • The Governor looks forward to practicing basketball with his grandchildren, based on the ADH guidance for team sports.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The 226 community cases are not a biological phenomenon.  It’s a matter of increased testing.  They’ve done as much testing during May as they did in all of March and April.
  • ADH will be traveling to Washington, Crittenden, Jefferson, and Yell Counties in the next several weeks to do testing in partnership with community health centers.
  • Dr. Smith was wearing a red shirt to raise awareness of the need to donate blood.  There has been a decrease in blood donations, which has become a critical problem.
  • The directive on overnight summer camps involves a very complicated issue: how do you keep children safe, without undue risk, in a congregate setting, so the directive needed to be especially detailed.
  • Dr. Smith said it’s a little early to know whether the large increase in cases is connected.  Some states have reopened and haven’t seen an uptick in cases, so it’s challenging to know what’s causing the uptick in cases, other than additional testing.  Doing the contact tracing will be an investment in manpower, and will be challenging.  However, ADH’s capacity for contact tracing is growing so they can work more efficiently.  Dr. Smith presented a plan for dramatically scaling up contact tracing to the CARES Act Steering Committee, which was approved and goes to the legislature for further review.  He is encouraged by what ADH is able to do compared to where they were.  Currently, they can determine where 80% of cases now come from.  He said the Governor told him that Dr. Birx was bragging on Kansas for being able to know where 50% of their cases originate, by contrast.
  • While the directive has not been completed, and he expects it to be completed by the end of the day, Dr. Smith did say that overnight summer camps can reopen on May 31.
  • Asked about new CDC guidelines on schools, Dr. Smith said he looks forward to working with Secretary Key on implementing guidance for Arkansas schools.
  • Spectators at team sports events should follow the directive for large outdoor venues.
  • ADH is looking with keen interest at apps that can assist with contact tracing, and trying to incorporate them when they can.

Dr. Jose Romero: Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Chief Medical Officer at ADH

  • Dr. Romero spoke about Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome.  Dr. Romero said it follows COVID-19 infection, and the symptoms are significant inflammation including multiple organs, with the treatment being similar to that for Kawasaki Disease.  There have been approximately 200 cases worldwide, but none in Arkansas.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force (AERTF)

  • Steuart is proud of Arkansas businesses for complying with the state’s guidance and directives.  He said he wanted to recognize the Governor, as he said he has heard from many businesses praising the measured response he has taken to placing restrictions and lifting restrictions.
  • The AERTF is producing an interim report and anticipates publishing it by the end of next week.   It will provide a summary of where we have been, where we are now and next steps.  They will publish the report on arkansasready.com
  • Steuart announced that Crystal Bridges will reopen soon with restrictions.

 

 

5/20/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 80 additional cases since Tuesday, May 19, for a total of 5,003 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Of those 80 cases, one was from a correctional facility and 79 from community settings. There are now 1,044 active cases with 315 in correctional facilities, 85 in nursing homes and 644 in the community. There have been 3,852 recoveries. Total deaths—107, with four within the past day in nursing homes. There are 78 hospitalized patients, with 14 on ventilators.

 

At correctional facilities, since testing began, 951 inmates and 65 staff have tested positive at Cummins State Prison, 231 inmates and 15 staff at the Randall Williams Unit, and 609 inmates and 17 staff at the Forrest City Federal Prison.

 

Another daily record for testing was set, 4,936, with a positivity rate of 1.9%. 44,240 COVID-19 tests total have been performed in the month of May and 95,010 tests total, with an overall positivity rate under 2%.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The Governor is in Washington D.C. meeting with President Trump.
  • ADH has prepared a new dashboard to display data regarding COVID-19 for the public.
  • Asked about worksite safety, Dr. Smith said safe worksites are essential for economic recovery, as workers and customers need to be confident they are not at risk of infection. ADH directives are designed to make worksites safer. If there are COVID-19 infections, ADH can work with a worksite to do contact tracing and investigations. Many large multi-state organizations have their own internal teams, but smaller organizations should know that ADH is available to implement guidance.
  • The increase in positive cases is not necessarily unexpected, due to the large increase in testing.
  • ADH evaluates the food processing industry, particularly poultry, closely, as the industry is very important to Arkansas’s economy. Dr Smith mentioned over 100 food processing industry workers have tested positive, but only around 50 are currently active.
  • Asked about the directive on team sports and summer camps, Dr. Smith said they will make an announcement tomorrow, May 21, after the Governor returns to Arkansas.
  • Regarding an outbreak in Dardanelle, Dr. Smith said it was related to the poultry industry, and there are 14 active cases.
  • Asked about the court system, Dr. Smith stated that courts do not exactly fit in with other ADH guidance or directives, so ADH has worked with the Supreme Court to develop specific guidance for them. Dr. Smith, in response to a follow-up question, said that district and circuit courts could work with ADH on developing guidance, as well.
  • Dr. Smith will be presenting a proposal to the CARES Act Steering Committee about implementing a contact tracing program that transitions from an emergency response to sustained efforts.
  • In a limited fashion, for critical infrastructure workers or essential workers, ADH has prepared guidance for asymptomatic workers who have tested positive, to continue to work, if they wear full PPE and interact only with those who have also tested positive.
  • Asked about those that don’t follow guidelines and directives, Dr. Smith said they are the exception, and punitive measures aren’t utilized unless there is a clear refusal to comply.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha: Medical Director for Immunizations at the ADH

  • Dr. Dillaha provided an overview of what occurs when a person tests positive. First, it is reported to ADH. The patient is contacted by a nurse and interviewed. The nurse is interested in when the infectious period began. They then go back two days, because they can spread COVID-19 when asymptomatic. The nurse contacts the patient’s employer to ensure close contacts can be identified, tested and quarantined. If those contacts are essential workers or critical infrastructure workers, they may still need to work, so ADH can help with the work set-up. Processes can be arranged to reduce the possibility of transmission. Examples include more distance between employees, not directly facing another employee, or plexiglass. The goal is to keep businesses open.

Dr. Naveen Patil: Infectious Disease Specialist at the ADH

  • As part of grant funding to address Ebola, Dr. Patil’s team visited over 200 facilities to help them work on best practices. This has allowed Arkansas to engage quickly in responding to COVID-19.
  • If there has been a positive case in a long-term care facility or other congregate setting, his team’s goal is to respond within 24 hours to test everyone. They work hard to get the results within 48 hours and complete the process within 72 hours.

 

 

5/19/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 110 additional cases since Monday, May 18, for a total of 4,923 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 110 cases, four were from a correctional facility and 106 from community settings.  There are now 1,082 active cases with 369 in correctional facilities, 83 in nursing homes and 630 in the community.  There have been 3,739 recoveries.  Total deaths—102.  There are 78 hospitalized patients, with 14 on ventilators.

 

In nursing homes, 325 residents have tested positive and 189 workers.  At the Federal Correctional Facility in Forrest City, there have been 585 inmates who have tested positive and 17 staff.

 

A daily record for testing was done yesterday, 3,014, with a positivity rate of 1.5%.  Of the 550 people tested for COVID-19 in Forrest City, Arkansas, 500 results have come back, with 32 positive cases.  39,700 COVID-19 tests total have been performed in the month of May.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives issued today, May 19.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Today’s press conference was focused on nursing homes and long-term care facilities (LTCF).  The Governor thanked LTCF workers and residents who have been through a lot and acted heroically.  He mentioned Dr. Smith has deployed a rapid response plan and team to aggressively work to prevent outbreaks.  He noted active cases in LTCF have gone down, and showed a pie chart, which he referred to as the “PAC Man Chart.”  Of the 227 nursing homes in Arkansas, 192 currently have 0 cases.
  • The Governor mentioned that enhanced payment for LTCF direct care workers, which were approved by the legislature, have gone out.  The first payments of $1.7 million went out on May 1.  Since then, over $21 million has been paid out to over 8,000 LTCF workers.  The Governor stated that Secretary Gillespie, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), and Rachel Bunch, Executive Director of the Arkansas Healthcare Association (AHCA) had done an excellent job of collaborating to get the funds to workers.
  • The Governor announced that on June 1, every LTCF worker and resident will be tested.  They expect this to be 40,000-50,000 new tests next month, in addition to other testing.  Human Development Centers will be included with LTCF.
  • The Governor will be wearing a mask at the West Wing tomorrow for his meeting with the President.  He will also be tested for COVID-19 for the first time.
  • Regarding the data breach associated with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Portal, the Governor said that applicants have been notified of the data breach.  Currently, the state is ensuring the system is secure, working with a third-party to determine what caused the breach and how to ensure it doesn’t occur again.  Applications are on pause until the PUA Portal is secure.
  • The state’s goal is to have checks out shortly after security verification.  Asked who is paying for the PUA Portal, the Governor indicated it was the state, but they hoped to be reimbursed by the Federal Government.  Also, in response to a question, the Governor said the state was ultimately responsible for the breach, but the developer may have some responsibility.  They’ll worry more about responsibility after ensuring data-security and check distribution.
  • Asked about the letter from the Dental Association raising complaints about perceived onerous compliance requirements associated with the ADH directive on elective dental procedures, the Governor said that he received the letter but that was his first notice that there was an issue.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Asked if the increase in cases was due to the reopening of businesses since May 4, Dr. Smith said ADH has performed analysis, and they do not believe the increase is due to reopening, but due to a tripling in the number of tests performed.  Three infected individuals mentioned going to a restaurant, six to a barbershop, 10 to church, three to daycare, and four to a gym.
  • Asked why there were over 10 cases yesterday from Sevier County, a small county, Dr. Smith said he didn’t have the details, but it could be related to an outbreak at a Pilgrim’s Pride food processing plant, where six cases have been reported.
  • Another question was asked about infections at a Butterball food processing plant in Huntsville, and what it could take for it to be closed.  Dr. Smith said he doesn’t have any information on that specific facility, but it would take an extreme situation, where a facility can’t operate safely because so many employees are sick, for a facility to be closed.
  • Asked about the letter from the Dental Association raising complaints about perceived onerous compliance requirements associated with the ADH directive on elective dental procedures, Dr. Smith set up a COVID-19 Dental Advisory Board and they held a meeting with the Governor present, where the date for elective dental procedures was moved up from May 18 to May 11.  The COVID-19 Dental Advisory Board met last night but Dr. Smith wasn’t present and has not received a summary yet.  Dr. Smith did express some frustration that the Dental Association isn’t communicating their issues by meeting with the Dental Board.

Rachel Bunch: Executive Director of Arkansas Healthcare Association (AHCA)

  • Arkansas LTCF has exceeded their minimum staffing requirements, unlike many states, and aren’t having to rely on infected employees to meet those requirements like some states.
  • Ms. Bunch mentioned that Arkansas has taken a proactive approach to testing, different from other states.  LTCF owners, working with ADH, will test the whole building after one person is infected, which has allowed LTCF owners to move infected residents to a different location to recover and have workers recover from home.  The AHCA is working with ADH on an appropriate plan for statewide testing.
  • Ms. Bunch was proud that 72 LTCF residents and 189 employees have recovered, while 19 facilities have moved off the list of facilities with an active case.  Asked about how they recovered, Ms. Bunch said the vast majority recovered while in isolation.
  • Currently, only 1.4% of the total LTCF population and 0.7% of staff have tested positive.
  • Asked about the needs of LTCF regarding PPE, Ms. Bunch said it fluctuates day-by-day, but the supply chain does appear to be improving.

 

 

5/18/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 54 additional cases since Sunday, May 17, for a total of 4,813 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 54 cases, one was from a correctional facility and 53 from around the state.  There are now 1,068 active cases with 378 in correctional facilities, 99 in nursing homes and 591 in the community.  There have been 3,645 recoveries.  Total deaths—100.  There are 77 hospitalized patients, with 12 on ventilators.

 

2,229 tests were done yesterday, May 17, with a positivity rate of 2.8%.  This weekend 550 people were tested for COVID-19 in Forrest City, Arkansas, which has had a significant number of cases because of the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) located there.  They exceeded their goal of testing 500 residents.  They have 290 results back from Forrest City, with 24 infections.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives issued today.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: Bars located within restaurants can open on May 19, while free-standing bars can reopen on May 26.
  • The Governor’s Press Conference was held in Forrest City.  The Mayor of Forrest City thanked the Governor and Dr. Smith for working with him, regional elected officials, and local business and public health officials, to respond effectively to COVID-19.
  • It was announced that there was a data-breach associated with the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) portal.  The Governor learned about the PUA portal breach from his office, and the site had been taken down by the time the Governor learned about the breach.  The incident is being investigated by the FBI because the data had been “exploited,” meaning the data was examined, but the Governor doesn’t believe the data was manipulated like what criminals would do.  Whenever there is a data breach, they have to notify their insurance carrier and ensure that Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is secured.  They also must notify law enforcement.  Law enforcement recognized the breach as something to investigate further.  While he didn’t want to discuss specific laws that may have been violated, he does believe that access was gained, which may be in violation of security protocols and the law.
  • The Governor is not concerned about the vulnerability of the PUA portal generally but said it’s a concern in the sense that PII of people, who don’t need the aggravation, was viewed.  The Governor will wait to see what the experts say before making a determination on the status of the portal and its future vulnerability.  The PUA portal was worked on over the weekend to ensure its security so they can get checks out this week.  The Governor is not aware of the connection between issues the PUA portal has had previously with accepting claims and the vulnerabilities which may have allowed for a data breach.
  • Regarding the Democratic Party of Arkansas calling for an investigation into the PUA breach and the issues surrounding the Ready for Business Grants, the Governor thinks it’s uncalled for to engage in partisan attacks at this time.  The Governor believes that everyone needs to be working together in a bipartisan manner to ensure public safety and to get assistance out to those in need.
  • The Governor will be visiting the White House on Wednesday.  He said it will be an opportunity to discuss what is being done in Arkansas to reopen the economy.  Additionally, the food processing industry in Arkansas, which is an integral part of the food supply chain in America, will be discussed.
  • Regarding the Department of Corrections, the Governor believes inmates have received adequate medical care, as shown by the vast majority of inmates at Cummins having recovered. The cases in Forrest City and the FCI are out of the state’s control, as the FCI is under federal control.  The Governor has spoken with the United States Attorney General so the state could coordinate with the federal government on their response.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Regarding the uptick in hospitalizations, Dr. Smith said hospitalizations generally lag a week behind cases, which increased last week.
  • St. Francis County, where Forrest City is located, has done a good job testing: 762 tests per 10,000 residents.  While many were done in correctional facilities, the region of Arkansas where Forrest City is located has tested 388 per 10,000 residents.  This is in contrast to the whole state, which has performed 290 tests per 10,000 residents.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that hospitals have taken great measures to protect their patients and employees.  Hospitals are not places to avoid, but places to get needed care.  Dr. Smith mentioned his mother-in-law was admitted to the ICU on Friday, but was transferred out and is doing well.  Dr. Smith mentioned his mother-in-law was afraid to go to the hospital, and they had an honest family discussion about the risks in going or not going to the hospital, and she recognized the need to go.
  • Regarding the directive for bars, Dr. Smith said it will be similar to those for restaurants.  Since bars receive licenses from ADH, they will be expected to comply as a requirement of their license.  Moving forward, Dr. Smith believes that they will continue to provide guidance on physical distancing and other measures, but the state will have to rely on testing and individuals taking personal action to ensure their safety and the safety of the community, as opposed to regulatory mandates. While hopefully, the state will see cases decrease, Arkansas will likely be dealing with COVID-19 for a while, so individuals will need to internalize the need to make good and healthy choices.  In a month or two, the state will be relaxing guidelines versus issuing new guidelines.

 

 

5/15/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 97 additional cases since yesterday, May 14, for a total of 4,463 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 97 cases, 18 are from correctional facilities and 79 from around the state, including 10 from a drug rehabilitation center in Pope County.  There are now 975 active cases with 322 in correctional facilities, 102 in nursing homes and 551 in the community.  There have been 3,390 recoveries.  Total deaths—98.  There are 65 hospitalized patients, with nine on ventilators.

 

2,669 tests were done yesterday, May 14, with a positivity rate of 2.5%.  Throughout May, 29,389 tests have been done, so the state is almost halfway to its goal of testing 60,000 people this month.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • After May 18, all retailers will be open in Arkansas, with restrictions, except bars.  The Governor anticipates making an announcement regarding bars on Monday, May 18.
  • A new website, ar.gov/covid, will provide a visual map showing the closest COVID-19 testing facility.
  • Lodges and state parks are now open.  He showed slides of occupancy rates for various state parks, and a pie chart showing 71% of the occupants will be from Arkansas.  The occupancy rates are consistent with 2019.
  • Asked about what it would take to revisit Phase I restrictions, the Governor does not see a reasonable potential of going back.  The Governor expects to stay in Phase I until confident that there will be no resurgence.  They will look at hospitalization data and the ability to respond appropriately if there is an uptick in cases and/or hospitalizations.
  • The Fort Smith concert promoter has submitted an updated plan, with modifications, which has been approved by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
  • Asked about Oklahoma entering Phase II, the Governor doesn’t feel pressured to do what other states are doing, because each has different circumstances and their Governors are making decisions based on their states.
  • Asked about Arkansas having one of the lowest percentages of tests per 10,000, the Governor said that is why he wants to ramp up testing.  They were limited previously by the availability of supplies and capability, but not anymore.  Asked why it has been more difficult for Arkansas versus Mississippi and Tennessee, the Governor said they were hotspots and resources went to hotspots.
  • The Governor is unaware of bars being open and not practicing social distancing.  If there are issues, the ADH should be called to be made aware.
  • All three casinos have officially been approved to reopen on Monday, May 18.
  • On Monday, May 18, the Governor will be in Forrest City.  Tuesday’s Daily COVID-19 Press Conference will focus on Nursing Homes.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith acknowledged that it has been a challenge for elective surgery patients to receive the results of a COVID-19 test within 48 hours, so on Monday, May 18, they will allow elective surgeries if the patient has received negative COVID-19 results within 72 hours.
  • All 70 local health units throughout Arkansas are available for COVID-19 testing.  Dr. Smith mentioned that these facilities would be testing where there has been active transmission in the community. Asked what that meant, Dr. Smith said that that it is where a lot of transmission is going on.  If someone is in an area where there are quite a few cases, and they have testing capability, they will be tested.
  • Asked about the Abbott Labs rapid testing devices that have been shown to provide many false negatives, Dr. Smith said they are still a good device, in specific situations, such as for those that are symptomatic.  There are 15 of these devices around the state, but there have been limited use, because of a lack of testing cartridges.
  • Most of the inmates at Cummins State Prison that have tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered.
  • Asked about the CDC raising awareness of COVID-19 positive children having symptoms similar to Kawasaki Disease, Dr. Smith said that was something they’d be keeping their eyes on.  Dr. Smith said luckily there have been very few cases in children in Arkansas and generally, children are less likely to have serious concerns associated with COVID-19.
  • Asked by a reporter from Memphis, Tennessee about Crittenden County, home of West Memphis, being a hotspot based on cases per 100,000, Dr. Smith said that while Crittenden would be a hotspot compared to other rural areas, he doesn’t believe it would be a hotspot compared to Shelby County, Tennessee, home of Memphis.  Dr. Smith doesn’t use the phrase hotspot anymore, as the phrase is imprecise and doesn’t convey what he wants it to mean.

Stacy Hurst: Secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (DPHT)

  • In addition to reopening parks and lodges, DPHT will loosen other restrictions as well.
  • Arkansas has been awarded $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to provide grants to Arkansas nonprofits, subject to legislative approval.
  • DPHT will be screening for COVID-19 at state parks for those staying overnight.  Those from hotspots will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

 

 

5/14/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 130 additional cases since yesterday, May 13, for a total of 4,366 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 130 cases, 17 are from correctional facilities and several counties had more than 10 cases, including 21 in Union County, where the Governor was earlier this week. There are now 928 active cases with 305 in correctional facilities, 101 in nursing homes and 522 in the community.  There have been 3,340 recoveries.  Total deaths—98.  There are 69 hospitalized patients, with 10 on ventilators.

 

There have been 900 inmates and 60 staff test positive, and seven inmate deaths, at Cummins State Prison.  48 inmates and two employees at the Randall Williams unit in Pine Bluff have tested positive.  Every inmate from the building where inmates have tested positive have been tested, but they will begin testing other buildings.

 

51 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  316 nursing home residents and 179 staff have tested positive.  33 nursing home residents have died.

 

1,991 tests were done yesterday, May 13, with a positivity rate of 2.6%.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today, May 14.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

The Governor said the state received 100,000 face masks from the Taiwanese consulate.
  • The Governor provided a chart showing upward trends on cases and hospitalizations.  They are not aware of the uptick reflecting a large community outbreak, it may just be the result of additional testing.   He stated he and Dr. Smith are not in a position yet to predict what will happen with entering Phase II, however, as of today, with the two-day uptick, they are not prepared to enter Phase II on Monday, which would be 14 days after Phase I.  They will continue to monitor the data over the next couple days.  The Governor reminded everyone not to take for granted that Phase II will occur in 14 days.
  • Walmart has added testing sites in West Memphis, Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Texarkana to the existing locations in Bentonville, Little Rock, and Fort Smith.
  • The Governor stated once again that case tracking is the most effective defense against COVID-19.  He reviewed with Dr. Smith the 64 cases from last Saturday, May 9, to see what occurred with contact tracing.  They successfully contacted 49 of the 64 cases to do contact tracing.  However, two individuals couldn’t be contacted by the ADH when they were trying to do contact tracing.  The Governor stressed that if you are contacted by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) please respond, so others aren’t exposed.  On average, there are 2.5 contacts per contact tracing case.
  • The concert in Fort Smith scheduled for May 15 was rescheduled for May 18, consistent with ADH’s directive.  The Governor is grateful that they determined they should follow the law, but declined to address the concert promoter’s charge that they were treated unfairly and their rights infringed upon.
  • Asked about a parolee in Eureka Springs testing positive and not quarantining, the Governor said that it was important that a COVID-19 positive parole violator be brought into Department of Correction facilities, as they are likely better prepared to manage a positive COVID-19 case versus the local county jail.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith visited a PPE decontaminant facility at the Goodwill Industries facility this morning.  He said the facility can decontaminate N95 masks for providers, free of charge, within 24-72 hours, so those masks can be reused up to 20 times.
  • Asked about a parolee in Eureka Springs testing positive and not quarantining, ADH will do aggressive contact tracing and some community testing.  They are taking it very seriously.  The individual tested positive after release, but was negative when tested previously.  They test all inmates before their release.  For a non-parolee, ADH can issue an order of isolation or order of quarantine, if necessary.
  • Asked about Carroll County, where Eureka Springs is located, not having sufficient test kits to do testing, Dr. Smith said they can resolve that problem by the end of day.
  • Dr. Smith said it didn’t make sense at this point to test all inmates at Cummins, even if asymptomatic, or do antibody testing, but they would be looking at doing expanded antibody testing in the future.
  • Asked about presumptive cases, Dr. Smith discouraged reporting presumptive cases since there was ample testing capability available.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • There is currently $778 million in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund, which is capped at $1 billion. $109 million in UI payments have been made to Arkansans from that fund.  An additional $248 million in payments have been made from funds made available due to the CARES Act.  A total of $357.9 million has been paid to date to Arkansans.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has received 30,000 applicants.  An email went out to applicants describing the process moving forward with the plan to have payments sent out the week of May 18.
The Governor’s Daily Press Conferences can be watched here.

 

 

5/13/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 72 additional cases since yesterday, May 12, for a total of 4,236 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 72 cases, one is from a correctional facility and five from St. Francis County, where the Federal Prison is located.  There are now 862 active cases with 295 in correctional facilities, 90 in nursing homes and 477 in the community.  There have been 3,277 recoveries.  Total deaths—97.  There are 64 hospitalized patients, with 13 on ventilators.

 

There have been 900 inmates and 60 staff test positive, and seven inmate deaths, at Cummins State Prison.  48 inmates and two employees at the Randall Williams unit in Pine Bluff have tested positive.  Every inmate has been tested there.  Three more inmates have tested positive at the Federal Prison in Forrest City.  The CDC will conclude their testing tomorrow, May 14.

 

51 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  316 nursing home residents and 176 staff have tested positive.  33 nursing home residents have died.

 

2,278 tests were done yesterday, May 12, with a positivity rate of 2.2%.  23,949 tests were performed in May, out of 73,215 total.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives announced today, May 13.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor showed a slide of active cases by county.  Pulaski County, the large counties surrounding Pulaski (such as Faulkner and Saline Counties), counties in the Delta (such as St. Francis and Jefferson), and Northwest Arkansas counties had the most active cases.
  • To prevent the possibility of a resurgence this fall, the Governor wants to ensure the state has adequate testing.  The Governor used a war metaphor and said testing is like radar.  It gives early warning capability of where an attack (uptick) will occur.
  • The Governor said he was pleased when LaShannon Spencer, CEO of Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA), said CHCA needed swabs, and Dr. Smith said the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has them.
  • The Governor said he would be disappointed and there would be consequences should the concert promoter scheduled for Friday in Fort Smith defy ADH’s cease and desist letter.  While he didn’t want to speculate, the Governor said ADH can utilize local law enforcement or other remedies, but he hopes common sense will prevail.  The Governor reiterated that it set a bad precedent for one party not to comply when you have others who recognize the potential public health consequences and have complied.
  • Asked about testing requirements for colleges this fall, the Governor said he is working with higher education institutions on the exact protocols.  He anticipates rapid testing of those that are symptomatic, or in other particular situations, but not testing all students.
  • When asked about expanded absentee balloting for the fall, the Governor said he is thinking about it but is not prepared to make a decision right now.  He’s in favor of no-excuse absentee voting but his emergency powers don’t extend through November, so a decision will have to be made as the circumstances, or whether there is an emergency, are better known in the fall.  If there is an emergency, he could use emergency powers to provide for no-excuse absentee balloting like he has for special elections this spring.
  • Asked about the Congressional Democratic proposal to provide additional funds to local governments and states, the Governor indicated that he thought that proposal was not close to being a done deal.  He recognized that cities and counties have incurred costs and have budget strains, but from the state’s standpoint, he was pleased with the CARES Act current flexibility for Arkansas.  The Governor was worried about additional stimulus bills causing the national debt to rise.  Arkansas doesn’t need help with budget shortfall, Arkansas can manage its budget through carefully cutting expenses, and he doesn’t believe it’s prudent to bail out states for decisions made before the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Asked about applicants for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system receiving notifications that they needed to provide additional paperwork because of an issue with the system, the Governor said that was part of the testing process to improve the system.  The expectation is that the PUA system will have checks issued by the end of the month, but he wants to ensure the state communicates clearly with applicants so they know what to expect.
  • Asked about an upcoming popular political event where there are chuckwagon races, the Governor encouraged the sponsors to read guidelines and if any part of their plan needed approval, that they would work closely with ADH to ensure compliance.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • 38.8% of positive cases have been African-Americans and 38.9% of deaths have been African-Americans.  Dr. Smith said it was a good sign that there wasn’t a disparity between the two.  Ages 25-44 had the highest percentage of positive cases at 38.7%.  Those 65+ were only 15.9% of the positive cases, but 71.6% of deaths.
  • As far as increasing testing, UAMS and Baptist Hospital will screen all new admissions, and Dr. Smith hopes all hospitals will do that as well.  More testing could be done at Long Term Care Facilities, so they will examine that possibility, along with dialysis centers and emergency departments.  ADH wants to be strategic in deploying tests.
  • While some organizations have said Arkansas needs 900 contact tracers, Dr. Smith believes Arkansas’s goal of 350 is appropriate.  Arkansas currently has over 200. Arkansas will strategically use technology, and analysis, to best use contract tracing resources.
  • Asked about the seven-day rolling average, Dr. Smith said it is hard to know day to day where the trajectory is going.  You must look more deeply at the granular data, because knowing the reason for an increase is more important than knowing the total numbers.
  • Asked how the concert was different from church services, Dr. Smith said each setting’s directive was based on public health guidance, and that there were key distinctions, such as the fact that there would be people from several different states expected at the concert.
  • Dr. Smith is still reviewing Oaklawn’s plan to reopen their casino, and has not made a decision, but he was very impressed.  He said the plan looked very comprehensive.  All three casinos have taken their responsibilities very seriously and provided very detailed measures to make their facilities as safe and clean as possible.

LaShannon Spencer: CEO of Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA)

  • CHCA stands in partnership to expand testing with ADH, committing to doing 2,000 tests a week to reach the goal of 60,000 tests in May.  CHCA can do drive-through testing, in tents, and for those without insurance.  CHCA also offers telehealth services.
  • CHCA have been doing about 200 tests a week previously.  In certain Delta counties, CHCA is working with faith leaders to do Sunday testing.

Bo Ryall: Executive Director of the Arkansas Health Association

  • Bo wants to ensure those in the community are aware of the availability of testing and accept the opportunity to be tested.  He requested that anyone experiencing symptoms get tested.  Hospitals are publicizing the need for testing within their communities.  He also requested that if you are delaying medical treatment, please follow up to schedule an appointment.
  • It is National Hospital Week and he wanted to recognize the true heroes, healthcare workers.
  • Bo indicated hospitals have sufficient personal protective equipment right now and are in good shape with testing.

 

 

5/12/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 121 additional cases since yesterday, May 11, for a total of 4,164 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Of those 121 cases, 21 are from correctional facilities and 27 from St. Francis County, where the Federal Prison is located.  There are now 849 active cases and 3,220 recoveries.  Total deaths—95.  There are 59 hospitalized patients, with 12 on ventilators.

 

There have been 900 inmates and 60 staff test positive, and seven inmate deaths, at Cummins State Prison.  50 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  299 nursing home residents and 174 staff have tested positive.  33 nursing home residents have died.

 

1,753 tests were done yesterday, May 11.  The Governor plans to announce an initiative tomorrow, May 13, to increase testing.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor is not alarmed if there are spikes, but if there are spikes several days in a row or if there is evidence it could be community spread, like in Forrest City, he becomes more concerned.
  • The Governor spoke of Dr. Fauci’s concern that we will see little spikes that turn into outbreaks with states reopening their economies too soon.  The Governor thinks Dr. Fauci is talking about states that didn’t go through the gating criteria for Phase I, whereas Arkansas followed the gating criteria.  The Governor noted that while overall tests didn’t go down for 14 straight days, that wasn’t the only criteria for entering Phase I.  There were two alternatives: a decline in cases or positivity rates, and Arkansas had a decline in positivity rates.  The Governor emphasized that Arkansas follows CDC guidelines and will continue to increase testing and contact tracing so hopefully Arkansas can enter Phase II.
  • The Governor announced that Arkansas received 50 doses of Remdesivir, which is being used to treat COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.  The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will administer the doses and provide them to doctors who deem it appropriate for their patients.
  • The Governor announced that he will make a decision on reopening bars on May 18 and allowing summer camps and team sports on May 20.
  • Regarding the concert in Fort Smith scheduled for three days before it would be allowed by the ADH directive, the Governor said that their plan was not approved by ADH, so the promoters could receive a cease and desist letter.  The Governor said businesses can’t just arbitrarily decide when it is best to reopen because ADH had used scientific criteria to determine dates and specifics that were in the best interest of public health.  He said the concert promoter set a bad example.
  • Asked about Louisiana entering Phase I on Friday, May 15, the Governor doesn’t see a challenge with border cities, as he mentioned cases in Arkansas border towns are down compared with across state lines.
  • The Governor has not made a formal decision on when to reopen schools this fall, but there will be in-person education.  The Governor receives feedback from educators, parents, and his Department of Education.
  • Arkansans are integral for preventing spread.  Individual discipline and respect for the rules are vitally important in preventing outbreaks.  The state can only identify cases with testing and go in and do contact testing to isolate it, so the spike doesn’t become an outbreak.
  • The Governor reiterated that masks should be worn in restaurants and it is not up to the owners to make that decision.
  • Regarding enforcing social distancing requirements, it is first up to owners and patrons to follow the guidelines, then ADH responds to complaints.
  • The Governor was briefed on contact tracing on Saturday, May 9, and how it works, due to the increase in cases this weekend.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith has not received any new reports from the Federal Prison in Forrest City.  ADH is working with community leaders to do more testing in Forrest City.  He has heard about a graduation party on Friday in Forrest City and said that it is not a good idea.
  • Dr. Smith said there are plenty of testing kits from the federal government and private facilities, so we need people to come forward to be tested.  Until we test all people with symptoms or those that have contact with them, he will not be comfortable.
  • 52 patients might meet the criteria for receiving Remdesivir.
  • Asked about a potential outbreak of cases in the Boars Head meat processing plant in Forrest City, Dr. Smith said he has heard no specific reports, but he has concerns with all businesses in that community.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about doctors, such as Dr. Fauci, criticizing states like Arkansas for re-opening too soon.  Dr. Smith said he respects those doctors and noted they have been very complimentary of Arkansas privately.  He believes that they would be supportive of him making decisions based on what is going on in Arkansas versus reading the criticism in the newspaper.  Dr. Smith noted he has worked closely with the Governor and they are making decisions that involve politics, but are not driven by political pressure.
  • Asked about when a spike became an outbreak, Dr. Smith mentioned it was completely contextual.  Dr. Smith mentioned the early outbreak in Cleburne County, where there were 50 cases in a county with a low population.
  • Dr. Smith believes that Arkansas’s approach of rapidly testing when an individual tests positive in a nursing home is a better approach than just testing everyone.  Dr. Smith believes testing everyone leads to more issues that don’t necessarily keep the population of residents and staff safer.
  • Regarding poultry plants and the question of whether undocumented workers may not want to get tested, Dr. Smith doesn’t believe that is an issue.  Dr. Smith said ADH works closely with both the companies and their diverse workforce, and isn’t concerned about a lack of sharing of information by the companies because ADH can do contact tracing.

 

 

5/11/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 296 additional cases since Friday, May 8, for a total of 4,033 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. The large spike occurred on Saturday, May 9, and came from extensive correctional facility testing. Total deaths—94. There have been seven deaths at Cummins State Prison. There are 61 hospitalized patients, with 11 on ventilators. There are now 803 active cases, with 278 at correctional facilities and 86 at nursing homes, and 3,149 recoveries. 49 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection. 289 nursing home residents and 172 staff have tested positive. 33 nursing home residents have died.

 

Approximately 2,700 tests were done over the week. The Governor spoke of the need for more tests to be done to accomplish the goal of 60,000 tests in May.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Representative Matthew Shepard: Speaker of the House of Representatives

  • Speaker Shepherd spoke first and mentioned that he invited the Governor to El Dorado, Arkansas, in light of the news Murphy Oil is relocating to Houston, Texas. Speaker Shepherd told everyone that El Dorado is doing okay, and while the loss of Murphy Oil stung, they still have Murphy USA, a multi-state gas station chain that employs over 600 people in El Dorado. The El Dorado Promise, which provides college scholarships to public school students from El Dorado, will continue to be funded.

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • The Governor held his Press Conference in El Dorado to show support for El Dorado and south Arkansas. The Governor discussed the importance of El Dorado and the broad, diverse south Arkansas economy, to the overall health of the Arkansas economy.
  • The Governor spoke of how the COVID-19 pandemic is both a health and economic crisis, but that Arkansas weathered the economic storm and is in a good economic position because the state took a tailored approach, and didn’t completely shut-down. The Governor mentioned the state’s budget was in decent shape, all things considered, and that the state has $780 million in a reserve fund for unemployment insurance.
  • The Governor was asked about the concert planned for May 15 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, three days before the date allowed under the large indoor facility directive that would allow for a concert to take place. The Governor said they are in discussions with the promoter, but that the concert would be in violation of the directive, and the promoter’s plan is insufficient for ensuring the health and safety of the patrons.
  • The Governor was asked about social media posts this weekend where shoppers were not abiding by social distancing requirements. The Governor said it doesn’t give him pause; it may have still occurred if the state was sheltering in place. The Governor said 90% of businesses were doing the right thing and when they do, patrons are taking it seriously.
  • The Governor was asked about restaurants believing that their limitations are unfair compared to retailers. The Governor said he’s in a tough spot because some restaurants think it’s too soon to reopen, while others think that there shouldn’t be any restrictions. The Governor said that while there are a lot of options, he and ADH used their best judgment for the right health standard. He did note that Texas only allowed 20% occupancy for restaurants when they reopened.
  • When asked about enforcement of directives, the Governor mentioned that first and foremost, the state relied on the good judgment of Arkansans. He then highlighted that Park Rangers at State Parks would remind patrons of their social distancing obligations instead of acting on the ADH directives first. He also mentioned that when he was notified of violations taking place, he would remind the managers of businesses of their responsibilities. Lastly, the Governor said that they could enforce directives if compliance could not be coerced.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith stated that it’s important that Arkansans have confidence in the safety of going to medical facilities. He mentioned a conversation with his in-laws, where his father-in-law stated he was afraid of a doctor’s appointment this morning. Dr. Smith made the case for the safety and importance of going, and his father-in-law went to the appointment. Dr. Smith noted that we need to encourage ourselves and others to get needed healthcare.
  • Dr. Smith spoke about the importance of testing and preventing new clusters and outbreaks. He mentioned that there have been 500 tests done in Union County, where El Dorado is located. That’s a good start, he mentioned, but put in perspective, only 131 tests per 10,000 people were being done in Union County, versus 233 per 10,000 statewide.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about infections at Human Development Centers (HDC). Dr. Smith said HDC were considered congregate settings, so they followed positive cases at an HDC closely. He doesn’t know how many cases have occurred at HDC, but there have been no major outbreaks recently.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that the purpose of ADH directives are to keep people safe. Dr. Smith gave examples of what could occur for violations of directives: individuals could receive an Order of Quarantine, ADH licensed businesses could lose their license, and non-ADH licensed businesses could receive Cease and Desist letters. ADH prefers not to take these measures unless they have to.
  • In response to a question about the difference between retailers and restaurants, Dr. Smith said that retailers have less face-to-face contact and personal interaction with patrons than restaurants. Dr. Smith said in restaurants, generally, you have people sitting in one place for a lengthy period of time breathing the same indoor air, whereas in retail establishments, generally, interactions are rarer and quicker.
  • The Governor re-emphasized that youth and team sports are not allowed, and a decision will be made in late May.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • The DOC issued over 100,000 unemployment checks this week. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) portal for the self-employed and gig workers is operational, and they received 23,000 applications. They are running tests to determine eligibility and plan to issue checks in the next couple weeks.
  • Secretary Preston mentioned that Arkansas was in better shape than many states.
  • Secretary Preston thanked the legislature for approving the Arkansas Ready for Business grant funds. DOC received 12,300 applications, including 152 in Union County worth $2 million. In total, the state received requests worth $147.7 million for personal protective equipment (PPE), with 94% coming from businesses with less than 50 employees, and 46% were owned by women or minorities.

 

 

5/8/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 82 additional cases, with 12 from correctional facilities, since yesterday, May 7, for a total of 3,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Total deaths—88.  There have been six deaths at Cummins State Prison and 896 total infections.  There are 64 hospitalized patients, down six from yesterday.  There are now 691 active cases, with 131 at correctional facilities and 89 at nursing homes, and 2,968 recoveries, up 101 from yesterday.  48 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  270 nursing home residents and 160 staff have tested positive.  33 nursing home residents have died.

 

2,355 tests were done yesterday, May 7, with a 2.1% positivity rate.  Overall, there has been a 5.8% positivity rate, much lower than the World Health Organization recommendation of 10%.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives issued today, May 8.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: Beginning May 22, pools, splash pads, and water parks can reopen with the following requirements:
    • No entry if fever, symptoms, or contact with positive patient
    • 50% capacity maximum
    • Six-foot physical distancing in all areas
    • Markings to note distancing
    • Disinfect high-touch areas frequently
    • Tables and chairs six-feet apart
    • Maintain pool chemistry with twice-daily pH testing
    • Lifeguard training can begin today.
  • The Governor thanked the legislature for approving $147 million in funds for the Ready for Business Grant Program and money for healthcare workers.  There is approximately $825 million still available from the Federal CARES Act funding.
  • The Governor’s slide presentation noted:
    • The seven-day rolling average demonstrates that we have plateaued with cases.
    • Active cases are on a downward trend.
    • Percentage of positive cases is less than 5%, which is much lower than many states.
  • The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) came up with a plan to accomplish the goal of 60,000 tests:
  • Use the 70 local ADH health units for testing;
    • All expectant moms receive tests;
    • Pre-surgical testing;
    • Utilize Abbott point of care machines that haven’t had adequate kits; and
    • Utilize the ADH minority health commission mobile lab.
  • The Governor hopes furloughed healthcare workers can be brought back to work as elective procedures increase.  Those furloughed workers may still be eligible for the direct care payments, as the intent is for the payments to be retroactive.  Hospitals have received direct funds from the CARES Act funds, as well.
  • The Governor said ADH is working with a concert promoter who is planning a concert on May 15, three days before it would be allowed by the ADH directive.  They are working to ensure compliance with all requirements and are concerned that it could lead to a bad precedent if they did not enforce the directive.
  • Employees who become ill with COVID-19 would be covered by Workers Compensation.  For those that are concerned, and unwilling to work, that is an issue between them and their employer.  It’s unresolved in the law, but the Governor hopes that employers will do the right thing.
  • The Governor does not have details on when the first Pandemic Unemployment Assistance check will be issued, but the website is operational and they are processing claims.
  • Regarding casinos potentially being allowed to have more people inside than other large venues, the Governor said they will amend the large venue directive to provide more consistency.
  • The 14-day period for Phase I began May 4, so the best case scenario is Phase II beginning on May 18.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The restrictions on elective procedures will be eased to allow for overnight stays up to 48 hours.
  • The casino reopening directive will be similar to the directive for large indoor facilities, but each casino will be required to prepare a unique plan for their facility, which must be approved by the ADH.  The ⅓ occupancy requirement is very important.
  • Dr. Smith was asked about three infections within the Little Rock School District.  He said that ADH balances the need to protect the public with privacy considerations.  There are instances where the need to protect the public health outweighs privacy concerns, but they consider that on a case-by-case basis.
  • The goal of testing 60,000 in May would be 2% of the population.  The 2% figure came from the CDC, and Dr. Smith is unaware of why the CDC recommends that amount.  To him, the key is how you test, not the number of tests.
  • Dr. Smith said that Arkansas has done a good job compared to other states regarding large outbreaks in nursing homes and prisons.  He doesn’t see the outbreak at Cummins State Prison as an issue with a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • ADH has 200 employees working on contact tracing but would like to increase that number to 350.  The issue is not just numbers, but the number of trained workers with the right technology to produce actionable information.

Dr. Cam Patterson: Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

  • Dr. Patterson said UAMS has performed over 6,000 tests, with 1,200 done by their mobile testing unit.  They have a low single-digit infection percentage with their mobile unit.
  • The mobile testing unit will be in Forrest City for a fourth time.  Because the numbers have gone up every time they have been there, they want to continue to monitor the area because of the large number of positive cases at the Federal Prison.
  • The in-patient burden from COVID-19 has decreased.  UAMS only has seven COVID-19 patients and three presumptive cases.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force

  • The Economic Recovery Task Force launched the website https://www.arkansasready.com/ with the social media handle “Arkansas Ready,” to provide tools and information on reopening Arkansas’s economy.  It will include sources on obtaining PPE.
  • Steuart, a pilot, will be leading a Unite Arkansas Flyover tomorrow, May 9.  The airplanes will be flying around Arkansas to show appreciation for all those that have worked hard during these difficult times.

 

 

5/7/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 97 additional cases, with 30 from correctional facilities, since yesterday, May 6, for a total of 3,665 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Total deaths—88. There have been six deaths at Cummins State Prison and 881 total infections. There are 70 hospitalized patients. Dr. Smith stated that after reclassifying cases, there are now 710 active cases and 2,867 recoveries. 47 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection. 266 nursing home residents and 155 staff have tested positive. 33 nursing home residents have died.

 

There have been 326 positive cases at the Federal Prison in Forrest City.

 

2,174 tests were done yesterday, May 6, with a 3.7% positive rate. Dr. Smith hopes that doing 2,000+ tests daily becomes the new normal.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There were no executive orders or directives issued today.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: Beginning May 18, casinos can reopen with ⅓ capacity and stringent social distancing requirements. The casinos have presented proposals demonstrating their ability to accomplish those requirements. Dr. Smith will work on preparing a directive.
  • The Governor’s slide presentation noted:
    • There has been an uptick in cases the past two days, which the Governor predicted, due to increased testing and prison cases. The goal is to keep the trend downward long-term.
    • Hospitalizations are down again.
    • The Governor showed a new slide on active cases and commented that they are on a steep decline.
  • The Governor re-emphasized that the state is in Phase I, and carefully lifting restrictions, but Phase II means that the state avoids resurgence in cases during the next 14 days.
  • The Governor communicates regularly with governors from surrounding states, including their plans to lift restrictions. They understand that what happens in one state is not indicative of what is going on in other states.
  • The Governor said he came to Texarkana to take his message outside of Little Rock, because Texarkana is a border city, and because Texarkana is very important to the state’s economy.
  • If there are any spikes in cases moving forward, they will have to study them very carefully, and if they can be controlled, then it won’t detract from the goal of entering Phase II. Contact tracing will be very important in preventing resurgence in the next 14 days because it will help the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) understand the trends to address outbreaks before they occur.
  • A decision on recreational team sports will occur later in May.
  • The Governor understands how important the oil and gas industry is to South Arkansas, but with falling oil prices, independent producers can’t justify bringing oil out of the ground if they can’t sell it. The Governor has directed the Oil and Gas Commission to look at ways to help struggling oil and gas producers in Arkansas. The Governor issued EO 20-24, which allows the Oil and Gas Commission to waive fees for oil and gas producers.
  • The Governor is pleased that reopened businesses have been following the state’s guidelines.
  • The Governor said he was proud to have such a well-respected expert in Dr. Smith leading ADH.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Dr. Smith stated that the CDC Director called and said he was impressed with the low number of cases in Arkansas and how Arkansas was able to simultaneously keep its economy open. The CDC Director said Arkansas was a good example for other states. Dr. Smith said he was very pleased because it’s a false choice between having to choose the economy or lives. The goal is to recover the economy as quickly and safely as possible. The key is increased testing and contact tracing. People don’t want to come to a state or leave home if there is an out-of-control outbreak.
  • Dr. Smith said Texarkana was not a hotspot when you consider hotspots from around the Country. Dr. Smith said that Texarkana and Southwest Arkansas are seeing an increase in positive cases, so the community needs to pay attention and continue testing.
  • Dr. Smith said sharing of contact tracing information happens frequently between states. Dr. Smith is the national president of the association of state medical directors and has a good relationship and is in close contact with medical directors across the south.

Allen Brown: Mayor of Texarkana, Arkansas

  • The Mayor commended the Governor for his commitment to helping everyone statewide. Mayor Brown said the Governor has stressed consistency and following ADH directives. Mayor Brown urged his citizens to follow the ADH directives so businesses can continue to be reopened in Texarkana.

 

 

5/6/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 72 additional cases, with 20 from correctional facilities, since yesterday, May 5, for a total of 3,568 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Total deaths—85. There have been six deaths at Cummins State Prison and 896 total infections. There are 69 hospitalized patients, a net decrease of 20. There are now 1,374 active cases and 2,109 recoveries. 45 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection. 264 nursing home residents and 149 staff have tested positive. There have been 33 deaths of nursing home residents. There have been 301 positive cases at the Federal Prison in Forrest City, up 37 from yesterday, May 5.

 

1,682 tests were done yesterday, May 5.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

The Governor’s slide presentation noted:
  1. Arkansas has less than 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 and is doing well in comparison to other southern states.
  2. Arkansas has some of the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 when compared to other southern states.
  3. Arkansas is doing close to 2,000 tests per 100,000, ranking in the middle range compared to other states.
  4. The two highest growth rates among age groups in Arkansas are 18-24 and 65+.
  • The Governor received a commitment from the CDC whereby the CDC will provide 90,000 test kits and swabs in May.  The state is waiting for its first shipment this week and should receive a shipment every week.  The internal goal is to perform 60,000 tests in May, which will require that over 2,000 daily tests be done the rest of the month, compared to a historical average of approximately 1,000 a day.  The Governor has asked Dr. Smith to come up with recommendations to accomplish that goal.  The Governor expects to continue to receive 90,000 test kits and swabs from the CDC every month moving forward.
  • The Governor issued EO 20-24 yesterday, May 5, to help the oil and gas industry in south Arkansas.  It allows the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to waive fees to give some relief to the oil and gas industry.
  • The Governor expects to issue guidelines for graduations closer to July 1, because he hopes and expects to see improvement regarding COVID-19 between now and then.
  • The Governor said that the Department of Corrections is trying to recruit employees as fast as they can, and provide competitive pay, to help with their staff shortage.
  • The Governor brought up visiting multiple businesses last weekend.  Some did a good job of abiding by guidance on social distancing and preventative measure, while others did not.  The Governor stressed the importance of everyone doing their part to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Governor will be in Texarkana tomorrow, May 7, where he will learn more about the issues of being a border town during COVID-19.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The COVID 19 Dental Advisory Board met yesterday, May 5, and discussed the directive preventing all non-urgent treatment until May 18.  It was determined, after input from the Dental Association that dentists have put into place sufficient protocols to protect their staff and patients, and have sufficient PPE, that the restrictions will be lifted on May 11.  ADH will work with the Dental Board to ensure compliance, including unannounced visits.
  • Dr. Smith provided the following breakdown on the percent of cases by age range in Arkansas:
    • Ages 0-17: 3.2%
    • Ages 18-24: 8.3%
    • Ages 25-44: 38%
    • Ages 45-64: 33.6%
    • Ages 65+: 16.9%
  • Because of the large percentage of cases for individuals younger than 65, Dr. Smith said they could not just focus on testing the older population.
  • Dr. Smith stated that the most rapid increase in cases the past two days are from Texarkana, Jonesboro, West Memphis and Forrest City. UAMS has performed mobile tests in Forrest City three times, and there are still more cases, so it could be associated with the Federal Prison.  The total number of cases in Forrest City is still less than other locations. Dr. Smith had no explanation why Jonesboro had an increasing number of cases, but West Memphis and Texarkana could be because they are border cities, and there are a larger number of cases in Memphis and Texas.
  • While many of those that have been hospitalized or passed away had underlying conditions, others did not. Underlying conditions do not impact who becomes infected with COVID-19, it just increases your chances of hospitalization or death.

Steuart Walton: Chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force

  • Steuart is encouraged by progress he is seeing and believes important steps are being undertaken to reopen the economy.
  • On May 8, a website will go live with a consolidated list of guidelines and resources for businesses.
  • It is important for Arkansas businesses to lead by example.  They need to follow the guidelines so their employees and patrons will follow them as well.
  • Steuart noted he was impressed with Rock Town Distillery pivoting to producing hand sanitizer.

 

 

5/5/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 38 additional cases, with four from correctional facilities, since yesterday, May 4, for a total of 3,496 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Total deaths—83.  There have been five deaths at Cummins State Prison and 876 total infections.  There are 89 hospitalized patients.  There are now 1,364 active cases and 2,050 recoveries.  45 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  261 nursing home residents and 148 staff have tested positive.  There have been 32 deaths of nursing home residents.

 

There have been 264 positive cases at the Federal Prison in Forrest City, up 92 from yesterday, May 4.
1,270 tests were done yesterday, May 4.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: The Governor signed a proclamation extending the emergency declaration for an additional 45 days. He had the authority to extend it for another 60 days but he will reevaluate in 45 days.  All directives are incorporated and reaffirmed through the latest proclamation.
  • Major Announcement: The restriction on recreational travelers is lifted for non-hotspots. Hotspots include NY, NJ, CT, and New Orleans. The directive will give the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) the authority to determine hotspots.  If you come from a hotspot, you’re expected to self-quarantine for 14-days.  The objective is to allow hotels and lodges to take in visitors from neighboring states.
  • The Governor showed a slide from the CDC that compared states and demonstrated that over the last seven days, cases were on the decline in Arkansas. The Governor reinforced this with a CNN slide showing that Arkansas was one of 15 states with cases going down.
  • The Governor addressed Arkansas’s economic situation. Yesterday, May 5, the state’s revenue report showed that state revenue was down 28.3% from a year ago.  The Governor indicated that they revised the revenue forecast knowing there would be a downturn, and he is pleased the revised revenue forecast beat their projections.  The Governor said this shows that Arkansas has taken a hit, but not the same nosedive as other states.
  • The Governor acknowledged that there will be a spike due to additional testing at the Cummins State Prison and cases at the Federal Prison in Forrest City. They will keep a close eye to ensure that those cases don’t lead to community spread.
  • The Governor said that the state will work closely with the National Park Service about reopening the Buffalo River National Park.
  • The Governor has not had any discussions with the Arkansas Secretary of State about reopening the Capitol but plans to soon. The Governor stated that telecommuting is the best option for Phase I, but he has begun discussions with Amy Fetcher, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services, about re-evaluating and planning for state employees to return to the workplace, consistent with protocols set out for the private sector, in the upcoming weeks.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Portal went live today, May 5.
  • The trust fund for unemployment insurance is in good shape, and it’s too early to evaluate for the long-term. Arkansas is not in the same position as California and Illinois.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Regarding the criteria for hotspots, Dr. Smith said it’s not a technical definition but a matter of where there are increasing cases or a high number of cases. The best place to look for where these areas may be is on the Johns Hopkins website, where they have a map showing the COVID-19 hotspots.  The state is trying to be welcoming and open, but protective of its citizens.  They don’t want to add hotspots, but take them off as the country recovers.  To get off the hotspot list, there would need to be a downward trajectory in cases.
  • Cummins State Prison has allowed asymptomatic but COVID-19 positive employees to work. This has occurred only when there is a critical employee shortage.  They would prefer that a COVID-19 positive employee self-isolate, but sometimes that’s not an option for maximum security prisons.  If a COVID-19 employee is working, it is only around other employees and inmates that have tested positive, and while wearing PPE.  ADH expects to test two more barracks with approximately 100 inmates.
  • Sports practices fall into criteria for outdoor and indoor events and will be re-evaluated later in May. Smith said that ADH worries more about spectators and concession workers than the participants.
  • ADH is working on guidelines, expected later this week, for recreational pools, to help them open as quickly as possible, but with the proper precautions in place.
  • It was brought up that a concert was being promoted for May 15. Smith said ADH would work with the promoters and anyone who they find out may be in violation of a directive first, to ensure they understand the rules, but, if necessary, ADH can work with local law enforcement and the State Police to ensure compliance with directives.

Stacy Hurst: Secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

  • DAH is working with the hospitality industry to ensure the protocols for lifting the restrictions on out-of-state visitors to ensure employee and patron safety. Secretary Hurst said she was aware that some national chains are developing protocols and said Arkansas State Parks will utilize CDC and ADH guidance.
  • DAH will work to get this directive out to stakeholders clearly and broadly, and they are available to answer any questions.
  • The previous directive on State Parks lodging will incorporate this new directive.

 

 

5/4/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 27 additional cases, with 14 from correctional facilities, since yesterday, May 3, for a total of 3,458 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Total deaths—81.  There have been five deaths at Cummins State Prison and 873 total infections.  There are 91 hospitalized patients.  There are now 1,362 active cases and 2,016 recoveries.  45 different nursing homes have seen at least one infection.  245 nursing home residents have tested positive and 145 staff.

 

1,629 tests were done yesterday, May 3.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
  • There have been no executive orders or directives issued since Friday, May 1.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: Large Outdoor Venues and Places of Worship can reopen May 4 and Large Indoor Facilities can reopen May 18.
  • The following are the guidelines for large indoor and outdoor venues, with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) issuing a more detailed directive soon:
    • 12-foot distance between performers and audience.
    • 50 or fewer performers/players/contestants.
    • Audience of 50 or fewer people.
    • Six-foot distancing for seating except for family groups.
    • Every other row should be unoccupied.
    • Face coverings for all attendees over 10 years of age.
    • Refreshments allowed but no self-service.
    • No entry if having a recent fever or other symptoms.
  • The following are the guidelines for places of worship, with ADH issuing a more detailed directive soon:
    • Online platforms strongly encouraged.
    • No entry if having a recent fever or other symptoms.
    • Six-foot distancing except for family groups.
    • No physical contact.
    • Refrain from having people come forward to a common altar for communion, blessing, etc.
    • Face coverings must be worn by all attendees over 10 years of age.
    • Hand sanitation stations at all entrances.
    • Eliminate use of multiple touch items like collection plates and shared books.
    • No classes for youth or childcare.
  • The Governor stressed that the restrictions for worship services were guidance, not directives.
  • The Governor mentioned that the large outdoor events were for events such as rodeos, parades and community events.
  • The Governor stated that the state had worked hard to meet the Phase I Gating Criteria from the President’s Opening Up American Again (OUAA) Plan. To get to Phase II there will have to be 14 days without a resurgence in cases and hospitalizations, so we must stick with social distancing measures. While the Governor understands that some would want more done, we must be careful and remember that we remain in a pandemic.
  • The Governor brought up the Ready For Business Grant Program, which was approved last night by the Legislative Council with some changes. Here are the details:
    • $55 million total will be open to all industry sectors.
    • 15% of the $55 million is for women and minority-owned businesses and 75% for businesses that have less than 50 employees.
    • Businesses will be eligible for $1,000 per full-time employee with a $100,000 cap per company.
    • Previous applicants don’t have to apply again.
    • The website will re-open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. tomorrow, May 5, and close at 6 p.m. on May 6.
    • The application process includes a driver’s license, signed W-9, and certificate of good standing.
    • They will address the need for additional money if needed.
  • The Governor thinks it’s exciting, optimistic and hopefully realistic that the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees plan to have in-person education this fall. The University of Arkansas Athletics Department plans to have student-athletes back on July 15.  The Governor knows that they’ll work with ADH and other SEC schools’ Departments of Health.
  • The Governor will extend the state’s emergency declaration that ends May 11.
  • The Governor expects to see some spikes in infections moving forward but the hope is that because of contact tracing we can quickly identify and control them so we don’t pull back on the reopening of the economy.
  • There will be an announcement in mid to late May regarding kids’ sports and team sports.
  • The Governor speaks with mayors fairly regularly, and it is up to them to lift curfews.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • The large indoor venue announcement does not include casinos. There will be a separate directive for casinos that will go out around May 18. Whether they reopen depends on their plans and what they plan to do to mitigate potential infections.
  • The reason for the 50 person maximum restriction is because 50 people is manageable for a contact investigation, while more than that would make a contact investigation very difficult.
  • Smith said that little kids can play together in outdoor facilities if there are less than 50 and they follow the rest of today’s directive.
  • Smith and the Governor are not concerned about Dr. Birx’s comments about it being too soon to allow for barbers, salons, and spas to reopen. They believe the right protocols are in place, which is being done gradually, based on the President’s OUAA framework.  Arkansas’s approach is phased in to better pinpoint if there is a resurgence, which allows you to be prepared.
  • Smith learned a lot from the early outbreak from a church in Cleburne County. They learned of the risks associated with COVID-19 with large congregate settings so we must remain the most vigilant in those settings.
  • Smith hopes that industries will remain highly motivated to prevent infections of their employees and patrons. Most of their enforcement is driven by complaints but ADH does inspect beyond that. It will be important for patrons to take these measures seriously, as well.
  • The Pulaski County Jail has worked with ADH regarding the inmate who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The most sensitive indicator for a resurgence will be an outbreak associated with an event. They will also continue to look at the number of new cases and the percentage of positive cases.
  • According to the OUAA, the target date for Phase II would be 14 days of stable or decreasing case count and hospitalizations.

Dexter Payne: Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC)

  • Six inmates at State prisons have been hospitalized. There have been 1931 inmates tested at Cummins.  The first group that tested positive has ended their 14 quarantine period.  DOC is working with ADH on what they need to do to lift the lockdown. No inmates at other facilities have tested positive.  DOC has tested 65 inmates at 10 other facilities.  Throughout DOC, 70 employees have tested positive, with 54 at Cummins.
  • There was a minor disturbance at Cummins this past weekend, May 2 and 3, where inmates set fires in trash cans and broke windows. It was quelled in a timely manner and there were no injuries.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce

  • The Department of Workforce Services has been working with the Department of Finance and Administration all weekend to have the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) portal ready, hopefully, later this week. It has taken so long because the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system is decades-old and not compatible with a brand new system for a large group of people that don’t have the same criteria as what is needed for the UI system.

 

 

5/1/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 66 additional cases, with five from State Prisons, since yesterday, April 30, for a total of 3,321 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas.  Total deaths—64.  23 of those 64 deaths are from nursing homes.  There have been no new hospitalizations since yesterday.  The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) recategorized 668 cases (those that they have not heard from but are not in hospitals were presumed to be recovered).  Thus, there are now 1,973 recoveries, with 1,284 active cases.  There were seven new cases among patients at nursing homes, for a total of 229, and an additional seven nursing home staff tested positive, for a total of 142.  135 inmates at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Facility have tested positive, up 34 since yesterday, April 30.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:
Key provisions include existing blanket CMS COVID-19 waivers, as well as, waivers pertaining to the following:
  • HIPPA
  • Administrative Activities
  • Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Pharmacy
  • Service Authorization and Utilization Controls
  • Services and Supports to Combat COVID-19
  • Provider Participation and Conditions for Payment
The main takeaways are that these waivers will provide more latitude to hospitals and doctors if they experience a surge in patients due to COVID-19, and further expand the use of telemedicine.
Additionally, CMS also approved the following:
  • Screening Payment and Use of Mobile Clinics
  • Parental Consult payment
  • Virtual Check-in payment
  • Well Check services payments
  • Day Habilitation Enhanced Payments for Early Intervention Day Treatment and Adult Development Day Treatment services

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • Major Announcement: Barbershops, salons, massage therapy facilities, body art facilities, and medical spa providers can reopen on May 6 with the following restrictions:
    • 10 or fewer people in the facility
    • Larger facilities cannot have more than 30% of stations operational
    • No walk-in appointments
    • Clients should wait outside or in cars until ready
    • Time set between appointments for cleaning
    • 6-foot distance between clients during appointments, in wait area
    • Client names, contact information recorded
    • Vulnerable populations should consider staying home
    • Face coverings required for staff (Clients must also wear as services permit)
    • Gloves should be worn
    • Hands must be washed before and after services
    • Screening of staff and clients
    • Postpone services if any symptoms, even if attributed to allergies
    • Thorough cleaning and disinfection
    • Barber and cosmetology schools are not included at this time
    • Phase II will include the following:
      • Increased number of people allowed inside
      • 6-foot distancing maintained
      • Screenings continue
      • Face coverings should be maintained
      • Allowing walk-ins can be considered
      • In-person instructions at barber and cosmetology schools
  • Phase III will be normal operations resumed while maintaining good infection control.
  • The Governor plans to get a haircut but isn’t confident that he will be able to get one anytime soon, due to the overwhelming demand for them. The normal enforcement mechanisms for these industries, inspections and acting on complaints, will be the inspection mechanisms that will be utilized for enforcing these rules.
  • The CARES Act Steering Committee met this morning, after the issues addressed by the Governor yesterday, April 30. After some concerns raised by legislators, an additional $85 million was approved, for a total of $100 million, at the urging of other legislators.  The Legislative Council will have to approve the $100 million, which the Governor hopes will be approved soon, as there has been an overwhelming demand.
  • Regarding evictions, the Governor said that he hopes that if a tenant is being evicted for non-payment of rent because of being laid off due to COVID-19, they will reach out to a non-profit because money was provided to the Arkansas Community Foundation to address these types of situations.
  • The Governor believes that the ACLU lawsuit arguing that the restrictions placed on elective medical procedures, specifically requiring a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours, is not an undue burden, and is consistent with 8th Circuit guidance.
  • The Governor believes that Arkansas is meeting the gating criteria for Phase I of President Trump’s Opening Up American Again (OUAA) Plan. The Governor stated that the focus is on the 14 days of cases going down, but there is flexibility, and the trajectory is going down.
  • Recently the Mayor of Jacksonville refused to open storm shelters during storms because of the guidance saying 10 or more people could not be in a facility. The Governor clarified that in emergency situations, you can waive rules to do what is necessary to save lives.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • With the Governor’s blessing, Dr. Smith will be appointing a COVID-19 dental advisory committee that will provide input for the directive regarding the easing of restrictions on dental procedures set for May 18. Dentists and dental hygienists will be represented on the advisory committee, and the expectation is that they will meet next week.
  • Smith agreed with the Governor’s comments on Arkansas meeting the Phase I gating criteria from the OUAA Plan. Dr. Smith said the OUAA gating criteria are about determining how much community spread is taking place and how taxed medical resources are.  Dr. Smith said Arkansas is decreasing or has stable community transmission and the healthcare system is not taxed.  Dr. Smith determined this by looking at the low percentage of positive cases and the seven-day rolling average going down, amongst other criteria.

Dr. Michelle Smith: Director of the Office of Health Equity and HIV Elimination

  • Smith has been working very closely with barbershops and beauty salons.
  • Her role is to help eliminate health disparities among populations, working with stakeholders to find solutions to not only the higher prevalence of COVID-19 infections with minorities but underlying issues like hypertension and obesity.
  • There will be a webinar for barbers and beauty salons next week to provide resources, but there will not be minority specific COVID-19 testing.

Mike Preston: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce

  • If an employee feels uncomfortable coming back to work, and their employer is reopening, they will be unable to receive unemployment benefits. However, if the employer is not reopening, when entitled to, the employee could still receive unemployment benefits.
  • ADC should have the portal operational later this week for those seeking to obtain the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. ADC is testing the system currently.  Those that can begin work in May would still be entitled to recoup the funds retroactively.

 

 

4/30/2020

COVID-19 Cases

There have been 63 additional cases since yesterday, April 29, the lowest number of new cases in several days.  There have been a total of 3,255 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, with 1,888 active cases.  Total deaths—61.  22 of those 61 deaths are from nursing homes.  There has been a 56 person increase in the number of recoveries, to 1,305.  Hospitalizations have gone up two to 95.  There are no new cases at State Prisons, but there are now 13 hospitalized, up two from yesterday, April 29.  The Federal Prison in Forrest City has 14 additional cases, for a total of 101.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Relevant Information:

Governor Asa Hutchinson Press Conference

Governor Asa Hutchinson

  • April 29 was the largest single-day of tests (2,520). There was a 1.5% positivity rate for those tests.
  • The Governor showed a slide with dates and the number of daily infections. He highlighted that the seven-day rolling average was on a downward trend.  He hopes history shows that April 25 was the peak.
  • Major Announcement: Gyms can reopen on May 4 with the following restrictions:
    • Screening for staff and patrons
    • No entry for:
      • Recent travelers to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, or overseas
      • Those with fever, symptoms, or recent contact with a COVID-19 patient
      • Anyone with a compromised immune system or chronic diseases
    • Temperature checks for staff
    • Face coverings for staff and patrons, except for when actively exercising
    • No pools, spas, showers, or saunas
    • Hand sanitizer available
    • Equipment sanitized after each use
    • 12-foot distancing while working out and during training sessions or classes
    • No personal contact
  • This announcement does not include team sports (such as basketball) or youth sports, which are prohibited until May 31, and will be re-evaluated in mid-to-late May.
  • The Governor stressed that social distancing restrictions are in place as we want to maintain a downward curve.
  • The Ready for Business grant program was pulled down after an hour of being online yesterday, April 29, because it had run out of the original $15 million allocated. The Governor was both incredibly surprised by the Ready for Business initiative’s success but acknowledged that it should not have gone online yesterday afternoon.  As mentioned yesterday at his press conference, it needed to be approved by the CARES Act Steering Committee and the Legislative Council.  The Governor said it was a simple miscommunication and he took responsibility.  The Governor did not believe that specific organizations or groups got inappropriate advance notice, but that the Department of Commerce notified all groups you would think would be interested in the grants.  The Governor will work with the legislature to determine if the $15 million amount should be increased based on the demonstrated demand.  Those that previously applied will have to apply again when the application goes online again, which the Governor believes will be early next week.
  • Over 2,300 businesses applied for over $35 million worth of Ready for Business grants. 92% of applicants had 50 or fewer employees, while 59% had fewer than 10.  Roughly $20 million of the $35 million in requests went to applicants with less than 50 employees.
  • Regarding potential liability for employers for employees or patrons getting infected by COVID-19 after restrictions are eased, the Governor stated there has been a lot of discussion but no resolution. The decision on whether to reopen has to be managed by individual employers.

Dr. Nate Smith: Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)

  • Of the 2,520 tests done April 29, commercial labs tested 2,079.
  • Regarding elective procedures, commercial labs have stepped up. One, in particular, is AEL in Memphis, which will increase its capacity next week to 1,500 per day.  Of those, 1,000 are for Arkansas hospitals, and will ensure a roughly 24-hour turnaround time.
  • Smith believes the guidelines for gyms are the best place we can be right now for safe activities, but recognizes that smaller facilities may have difficulties, and asks them to be creative if possible.
  • There was a conference call April 29 with the Surgeon General and doctors that got a bit heated. Doctors believe that the requirements to do elective procedures are overly burdensome.  Smith understands the frustration but believes that increased lab capacity will help alleviate their concerns, and hopes to relax more criteria in the future.

Kelly Eichler: Co-owner of Little Rock Athletic Club (LRAC)

  • LRAC has prepared guidelines for their four gyms and are happy to provide them to any healthcare facility to help ensure they can meet the restrictions.
  • The three main principles are:
    1. a touchless experience as much as possible
    2. maintaining social distancing of 150 feet per person in classes
    3. constant sanitization.
  • LRAC will be having employees spread throughout their facilities, ensuring members have the necessary sanitary tools available.
  • Chancellor Patterson from UAMS reviewed their plan and agreed with everything except for wearing masks during cardio, so they cut that from their plans.

 

4/29/2020

COVID-19 Cases

As of 4 p.m. April 29, there are 3,192 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, with 1,884  active cases.  Total deaths—59.  There has been a 103 person increase in the number of recoveries to 1249.  Hospitalizations have gone down 11 from 104 to 93.  There are 18 people on ventilators, which is a drop of two from yesterday, April 28.  One-third of the 59 deaths in Arkansas have been from nursing homes.  There are no new cases at correctional facilities. Of the 11 inmates hospitalized, one is in a field hospital at Cummins, three at UAMS, and seven at Jefferson Regional. Three are on ventilators.

COVID-19 Updates

Executive Orders and Other Releva