Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor Asa Hutchinson announces 2-day surge campaign

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday afternoon announced a Two-day Arkansas Surge Campaign.

The governor said he’s looking at the two-day time frame to be Friday and Saturday.

The governor said, “If you think you have symptoms, don’t wait, get tested”.

Those symptoms include fever, cough or shortness of breath.

This announcement was made after the Governor’s Advisory Group on Testing met and gave an initial report and recommendations.

The group gave four recommendations:

  1. Expand PCR testing for all patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with a history of potential exposure.
  2. Expand PCR testing for contact investigations.
  3. Screen for COVID-19 in high-risk settings.
  4. Develop a strategy for statewide serosurveillance.

The governor said the goal is to increase testing from 1,000 to 1,500 each day.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said the state is not currently utilizing the full testing capacity.

Smith also said the testing strategy is not just to increase the numbers, but to identify the people infected, interrupt or stop spread and save lives.

The governor also announced Thursday that there were 2,465 cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas. This is an increase of 189 cases.

The governor said of the 189 new cases, 122 of them were inmates from the Cummins Maximum Security Unit. Dr. Smith said the other 67 cases are either staff at the Cummins Unit or people in communities.

Dr. Smith said 687 inmates and 35 staff have tested positive at the Cummins Unit. Smith said the staff is included in the community count because they go home to their families. Dr. Smith said the testing at Cummins is almost finished.

Dr. Smith also said the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is implementing testing strategy, and there are currently 75 inmates and 10 staff who tested positive for the virus.

According to state officials, 101 people are hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Dr. Smith said this is a net gain of four.

Dr. Smith said 24 people are on ventilators due to the coronavirus, which is a net gain of one.

Dr. Smith said there are 174 nursing home residents with the virus, which is up four.

State officials announced the death toll due to complications of the coronavirus in the state is 45, which is an increase of three from the day prior.

Dr. Smith said Thursday 902 people have recovered from the virus in Arkansas, which is 39 more than Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor for UAMS, said Thursday that the projections for the total amount of hospitalizations and deaths for the state due to the coronavirus have gone down. Patterson said he believes the predicted surge has not manifested itself in the state.

Pattterson also said UAMS is working on increasing testing capacity and to make sure testing is available for people across Arkansas. Patterson said testing has been done in McGehee, Marianna and Camden. Patterson said about 600 people have been screened, 248 have been tested and six positive cases have been identified in those areas. Testing is also lined up for Warren, according to Patterson. Patterson said the goal of the mobile testing unit is to also identify those who test negative for the virus and which communities have low transmission.

Patterson said UAMS has screened about 15,000 Arkansans and have tested 4,129 people.

Patterson said the test at UAMS is to determine if a person currently has the virus, but they are working on developing “more useful testing”.

The governor said the unemployment system for the self-employed, independent contractor or gig economy worker is being built and the money is available. The governor said he believes it would be available the first week of May, but Commerce Secretary Mike Preston will be at Friday’s news conference to give an update.

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