Arkansas Department of Health says COVID-19 cases were expected; discuss how to move forward

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Health officials with the Arkansas Department of Health said Wednesday they will likely see more cases and now they want Arkansans not to panic but to be aware and concerned about COVID-19.

“All Arkansans need to think through their travel plans, and be flexible,” Arkansas Department of Health Secretary of Health, Dr. Nate Smith said.

Dr. Smith gave advice on travel plans and ways to stay safe, like washing your hands and not using handshakes, now that the Natural State saw its first presumptive COVID-19 case.

“We’re calling it presumptive positive until we have confirmation from the CDC lab,” Dr. Smith explained.

Dr. Smith said this was expected because the state is surronded by others with cases.

“We’ve been prepared for this, we’ve been actually looking for potential cases,” Dr. Smith said.

During Wednesday’s news conference, health officials said they think the person who tested positive came in contact with the virus during out of state travel. There’s no word yet on who the person is but they were tested after showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr. Smith said there’s no evidence of it spreading in Pine Bluff or throughout the state but they do have one more thing to check on.

“We’re doing the appropriate contact tracing to identify any possible secondary cases,” Dr. Smith said.

The state said they’re working to find out if anyone else has been in contact with the person who tested positive. They said it’s likely more people will be quarantined.

“So health care personnel that would’ve cared for this patient, it would be different for the risk if that patient at that time did not have a mask, or if they did,” Medical Director of Immunizations and Outbreak response, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said.

Meanwhile State Representative Vivan Flowers from Pine Bluff where the case is based said she wants to know more so the city can take the right precautions.

“Everything is still fluid, but I’m still waiting,” she said. “You know, you still want a lot more information so I can know what to tell my constituents, so I know what to tell my family and so I know what to do.”

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