Here are some Key Notes, Statistics, and Video for Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s news update on the COVID-19 pandemic, along with updates and guidance from Dexter Payne, Director of Corrections; and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health.
On Saturday, Governor Hutchinson immediately addressed a security issue involving 30,000 self-employed applicants for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA). This system was under construction for about five weeks before going into testing mode last week. The Governor stated that it was built by a team at the Department of Commerce Department of Finance, and they “utilizing the expertise and speed of an independent IT contractor” named Protech.
“Last night, I learned of a potential security incident in which an applicant seems to have illegally accessed the system. When this was discovered, it was necessary to shut the system down. These steps have been taken, consistent with our state requirements for any potential data breach…” Hutchinson stated.
He said their protocol is to notify law enforcement and their cyber insurance carrier. Also, forensics are currently being conducted by an outside IT expert, according to Hutchinson.
“We want to make sure that the system is in good shape before it goes back online. Then if we find during our investigation that any personal sensitive data is compromised, steps will be taken,” said Hutchinson.
The Governor said if necessary, they will notify applicants or anyone that might have had personal information compromised in this incident. Then they if needed, they will offer a credit monitoring program to those individuals.
“This is something we have some experience with,” said Hutchinson. “It’s one of the reasons that we have a good cyber insurance program here in the state.”
He said a team of 100 people continues to work weekends to get the PUA system back up, with the goal of money out the door next week.
In response to a reporter question, Hutchinson said that they hope to be done with forensics today and back online with the PUA application system. He said that if they find out any individual information has been compromised, the applicants will be notified. “It’s also very important that we continue the processing of the applicants so we can get the money out the door. The team partners – Commerce, Department of Finance are looking at ways that they can continue to process those payments even though their system is down and the applicants can’t access it. 30000 already in the system if there’s new ones that want or need to apply, that can’t happen until we get the system back up. “We’ve got over a hundred people that are working this weekend too, as they have on other weekends, to get this system right – both to protect their data, but also to process these payments for money that they very much need.”
The governor stated, “I also just want to say that there’s a lot of decisions that have to be made during the course of this pandemic. They are many times tough decisions and we realize that they impact people’s lives very personally. We recognize that there are people that are hurting out there. But they’ve lost income and we want them to get back to work and want to make sure they get the compensation that they’re entitled to. We are working very hard to get that done but we realize that every decision that’s made, every action that’s taken, does impact somebody’s lives and we put that foremost and we’re anxious for everybody to be working and having the income that they want to have and be able to return to normal in a safe way.
Dr. Nate Smith gave several current statistics and then urged that Arkansas residents continue to follow guidance by the Arkansas Departmet of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said the public needs to keep maintaining at least a six foot physical distance from other people, keep hand washing and keep wearing a face covering or mask, especially when it’s difficult to maintain that 6 feet of physical distancing.
“We also have public health disease intervention steps like testing case investigations and contact tracing. And then the third are these directives that we put out that limit things like restaurants and other businesses,” stated Smith.
Regarding the Randall Williams Corrections unit in Pine Bluff, 231 inmates have tested positive with 129 results pending. Director Payne said that the facility is on lockdown and positive and negative inmates have been separated.
“Randall Williams is in a better position to deal with this issue because we have two other facilities right next door, and they could assist with the feeding and any other needs at the Randall Williams facility,” stated Payne. “On a good note, we’re following the guidelines as always from the Arkansas Department of Health and CDC to make sure we’re doing the things we’re supposed to, to treat our inmate population.
There was more good news coming from the Cummins State Prison unit. The facility has gone from a height of 872 cases, having tested all the inmates. As of Friday, 860 have recovered, leaving only 12 active cases. Payne said they have returned to much more like normal operations because the ones who have recovered can now be fed in the chow hall instead of in their barracks.
Dr. Smith listed the current statistics for COVID-19 patients below:
- 98 deaths, no change
- 65 currently hospitalized, no change
- 10 currently on a ventilator, up 1
- 4578 total cases, up 115
- 75 new cases are from Randall Williams Correctional Unit
- 40 new cases are from the community
- 3472 have recovered, up 82
- 1008 active cases
- 370 are corrections
- 101 are in nursing homes
- 537 are in the community
- Randall Williams Unit
- 515 tested
- 231 cases, up 177
- 129 tests are pending
- 8 staff cases
- 2 inmates are currently hospitalized
- Forrest City Federal Corrections Institute
- 473 cases, up 138
- more results pending
- Cummins State Prison
- 872 total cases
- 860 recovered
- 12 active cases
Statistics for Saline County as of the end of the day yesterday were:
The link for case numbers the entire state is: https://adem.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/f533ac8a8b6040e5896b05b47b17a647