Coronavirus in AR: Governor announces 2 executive orders to help first responders, health care workers

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon that there were 1.498 cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas.

That’s an increase in 88 from the same time Monday.

State officials also announced Tuesday there have been two additional deaths due to complications from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total of deaths to 32. In the deaths announced Tuesday, one person was in their 50s, while the other was older than 65.

Eighty-one people have been hospitalized, according to state officials.

Twenty-nine people are on a ventilator due to the coronavirus, according to Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

The number of people in Arkansas who have recovered from the virus is 444, which is 53 more than Monday, according to Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith said as of Tuesday, 206 health care workers had the virus, but 65 of those have recovered.

According to Smith, eleven percent of the cases are nursing home residents and workers. Ninety-three residents and 71 workers have been infected with the virus. Six of the virus deaths in the state were in nursing homes. There are currently active contact investigations in 28 nursing homes in the state, according to Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith said Tuesday of the total cases, 10 percent of the cases are from the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City and state correctional facilities.

Governor Hutchinson said he and Dr. Smith spoke with United States Attorney General William Barr, who said the medical team with the Bureau of Prisons and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will handle the investigations. Dr. Smith said the cases within the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City make up four percent of the total cases. There are 55 cases of the virus within the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City- 46 inmates, eight staff and one contractor.

According to Dr. Smith, six percent of the total cases come from state correctional facilities.

Governor Hutchinson said there were no new positive tests out of the Cummins Unit as of Tuesday afternoon. According to Smith, 43 inmates have confirmed cases of the virus, and they are all from the same barracks. Smith says ADH is testing from other barracks. So far, 10 staff members have tested negative for the virus. Smith says his department plans to test a sample within all areas of Cummins within the next couple of days.

Director of the Department of Corrections Dexter Payne said visitations to the prisons have been suspended until June 1 at this time, while costs for video visitations and phone calls have been reduced. Payne also said staff are only moving one barracks at a time to the dining hall or for recreation. All inmates and staff at the prisons have face masks, thanks to the Arkansas Correctional Industries.

Payne said the inmates with the coronavirus have been isolated and are eating inside their barracks.

Dr. Smith said there are currently 44 cases within the Central Arkansas Community Correction Center- 27 staff and 17 inmates. So far, 35 staff and 21 inmates have tested negative, but Dr. Smith says everyone at the facility will be tested.

Governor Hutchinson announced Tuesday that he issued two executive orders to help first responders and health care workers.

One of the executive orders is to help first responders and front-line health care workers get worker’s comp if they get the coronavirus while on the job. According to Hutchinson, contagious diseases or viruses are not in worker’s comp unless they are in a hospital. The governor said this will help firefighters and first responders if they have a causal connection.

The second executive order the governor announced is liability immunity for medical emergency responders. This will apply to physicians, physician’s assistants, specialist’s assistants, licensed register nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses.

The governor also said he’s hoping the state is starting to see a plateau in the number of hospitalizations, according to a chart he showed during Tuesday’s press conference.

To see the charts, click here.

The governor also said there will be new message boards across the state saying “NO REC LODGING FOR OUT OF STATE TRAVELER” or “OUT OF STATE REC LODGING PROHIBITED”.

Governor Hutchinson said Arkansas is not yet at the peak of the virus, but he thinks we’re getting close to the plateau.

The governor said he will make decisions based on the best public health advice, and Arkansas has positioned itself to fight for the long haul.

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