Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and members of the COVID-19 task force held a news conference Sunday afternoon, March 22, 2020, to provide an update on the pandemic. The task force includes: Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, and Commerce Secretary Mike Preston.
Topics covered are the number of positive cases, nursing home outbreaks, measures to make it easier to file for unemployment, resources for businesses and more.
The following are bullet points from the conference according to statements by the Governor and task force:
At the time of the press conference, there were 165 positive cases. Hutchinson and others attribute the increased capacity for more testing to the jump in positive cases. In the beginning two weeks ago, the state testing lab was able to process 5-10 tests per day, but on Saturday, they processed 139 tests.
There are 44 workers and residents in three nursing homes that tested positive. The state is investigating those facilities.
Be aware of “rogue tests” and treatments, since people are preying on your fears and concerns. The state has put aside $400,000 for a public messaging campaign for education on COVID-19.
The federal government has asked the states to procure their own supply of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), however, the feds bought all the supply. The state got 25% of what was requested from the federal supply. The state procurement team says the supply is bottlenecked and we may need to make our own. Arkansas is competing with other states and countries for the supplies. During questioning, the Governor stated that he advocates for the Federal government to procure the supplies instead of the states.
Unemployment filings are 8,000-10,000 at this time. There might be more but the system wasn’t designed for this type of economic downturn. The Governor has put aside $1.1 million for an IT upgrade so the unemployment system can keep up with demand. There will be a state unemployment hotline starting Monday, March 23rd that will be toll-free and open 24/7. That number is 844-908-2178. Don’t go directly to Workforce Centers. Although employees are at work, it’s to process claim and not to interact with the public in person.
Businesses seeking relief should visit the state’s resource page at arkansasedc.com/covid19.
During questioning, Dr Patterson stated that the CDC told him about the virus in January, “I received a personal phone call from Dr. John Dreyzehner, Director of CDC Center for Preparedness and Response within the first few days of January to tell me about this virus that – at this point didn’t have a name, and at that point thought to have limited human-to-human transmission. So we had good communication with our Federal partners – really from the beginning but at first, it seemed that this was mostly an animal-to-human transmission and the ability of this virus to efficiently spread from one person to another was not known at that time. ”
Currently positive cases of COVID-19 statistics are as follows:
- 10 are children
- 62 are over age 65
- 93 are age 19-64
- 61% are female
- 39% are male
- 18% are African American
- 70% are Caucasian
- 12% are Other
- 19 are or were hospitalized
- 12 are or were in the ICU
- 6 are or were on a ventilator