Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor, state officials discuss increasing testing


LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, talked about increasing testing across the state during Wednesday’s news conference.

According to Governor Hutchinson, there are 4,236 cumulative cases and 97 deaths in Arkansas as of Wednesday afternoon.

That is an increase of 72 cases, according to state officials. Dr. Smith said of the 72 new cases, one was in a correctional facility and the other 71 were in communities. Dr. Smith also said in the new cases, five were from St. Francis County and 10 were from Craighead County.

Dr. Smith said out of the total number of cases, 862 are considered active. Of the active cases, 295 are in a correctional facility, 90 are in nursing homes and 477 are in communities, according to Dr. Smith.

Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus rose from Tuesday to Wednesday by five, to 64, according to state officials.

Thirteen people are on ventilators due to the virus, which was an increase of one, according to Dr. Smith.

According to Smith, there are 51 nursing homes across the state that have one or more cases of the coronavirus. Dr. Smith said Wednesday that there were 316 residents and 176 nursing home staff that have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Smith said the number of cases in the Cummins Unit remained the same as Tuesday.

There were three new cases of the virus in the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City, bringing the total to 335 cases, according to Dr. Smith. Smith said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conclude their testing on Thursday.

Dr. Smith said 48 inmates and 2 staff have tested positive for the virus in the Randall L. Williams Correctional Facility in Pine Bluff.

Dr. Smith did also mention the demographics of cases and virus deaths. According to Dr. Smith, 38.8 percent of the people who have tested positive for the virus are African American and 38.9 percent of African Americans who had the virus died due to complications. Smith also pointed out the largest percentage of virus cases was among adults aged 25-44. Smith said adults 65 and older accounted for 15.9 percent of the cases, but 71.6 percent of the virus deaths.

Dr. Smith said as of Wednesday, 3,277 Arkansans are considered to have recovered from the virus, which was an increase of 57.

The governor announced Wednesday that as of May 12, there have been 23,949 tests done so far in the month. The goal is 60,000 tests completed in May.

Governor Hutchinson also said since March 11, there have been 73,215 tests done in Arkansas.

The governor said there were 2,278 tests done in the last 24 hours with a 2.2 percent positivity rate.

Hutchinson said we need to have the infrastructure of testing into the fall and that’s why we’re building it.

The governor said testing is our radar system in this war.

Dr. Smith said Baptist and UAMS have said they are intending on screening all new patients, and encouraged other hospitals to do the same.

LaShannon Spencer, Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Centers of Arkansas, announced Wednesday a pledge of 2,000 tests a week to help the state reach the 60,000 testing goal. The Community Health Centers of Arkansas offer multiple drive-thru and tent testing sites, according to Spencer. Spencer also said insurance should not be a concern for people and they can be tested for free.

Spencer also urged Arkansans to take care of themselves and pay attention to primary care.

Community Health Centers of Arkansas also offers telehealth, Spencer said.

For more information on Community Health Centers of Arkansas, click here.

Bo Ryall, the President and CEO of Arkansas Hospital Association, said this week is National Hospital Week and said he was thankful for all who worked in the hospitals.

Ryall also said hospitals are conducting many tests each day and are either using their own, ADH or commercial labs.

Ryall urged Arkansans to pay attention to their local hospital’s website and social media pages about testing.

Ryall said if you have been delaying medical care, please get in contact with your doctor.

Dr. Smith said they currently have more than 200 staff contact tracing, but the goal is to have 350 contact tracers.

When asked about Temple Live officials planning to go against the cease and desist order, Governor Hutchinson said he was not aware and it would be disappointing. The governor also said not following the order could lead to consequences, but he hopes patrons would use good judgment and not attend. The governor said he hopes common sense will prevail.

Governor Hutchinson also wished a happy 103rd birthday to Herman Higgs, who is in the North Little Rock Veterans Home. According to the governor, Higgs went into the army at 21 and was a POW in World War II. The governor also said Higgs was an El Dorado police officer and U.S. Marshal.

You can watch the full news conference above.

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