Coronavirus in Ark.: Gov. Hutchinson announces dental procedures will be allowed to possibly proceed May 18

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced in a news conference Friday afternoon that dental procedures will be allowed to possibly proceed on May 18.

The governor said the May 18 date is set as a goal and could change.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said Friday the May 18 goal is if the state sees a downward trend of cases.

Smith said dental surgery is already covered under the elective procedures.

The health department will give a guidance document for non-urgent elective dental procedures and a second document will be sent for what exactly will be allowed to happen on May 18.

Smith said resuming dental procedures will be a staged approach.

Procedures that require aerosols would not be encouraged to start on May 18, Dr. Smith said.

Governor Hutchinson said the state saw an increase of 276 cases of the coronavirus to make the cumulative total to 2,741.

Dr. Smith said of the 2,741 cases, 1,763 are considered active.

State officials say out of the 276 case increase, 198 of them were inmates in the Cummins Prison. Dr. Smith said the other 78 cases reported between Thursday and Friday were either staff at Cummins or other communities in the state.

Dr. Smith said Fulton County is the newest county reporting a case.

According to state officials, there is one additional death reported Friday, bringing the state’s death toll to 46.

State officials say 104 people are in the hospital due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Smith said 25 people are on a ventilator, which is an increase of one.

State officials say 2,808 tests were processed Thursday, which is the largest single daily number of testing results. Dr. Smith said of the tests processed Thursday, 7.9 percent of them were positive.

Dr. Smith said he’s concerned about the three-day increase in numbers from the community. Smith said part of that is an increase in test results. Dr. Smith said there is a slight increase coming from northwest and northeast Arkansas. He said his department is watching that very carefully by looking at the positivity rate.

Dr. Smith said in the Cummins Unit, 690 inmates have tested positive, which is three more than the day before. Over 30 staff have also tested positive, according to Dr. Smith.

According to Dr. Smith, 79 inmates and 11 staff at the Federal Correctional Institution have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Dr. Smith said 176 nursing home residents and 102 staff have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Smith said an additional 10 health care workers had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 285 health care workers.

Dr. Smith said 932 people have recovered from the virus in the state, and added that over a third of total cases are considered recovered.

Governor Asa Hutchinson also announced Friday that he has approved an additional $1 million to fulfill 100 Bridge loans that have been unfilled. The $1 million is coming from quick action closing fund money. The governor said the Economic Development Commission already approved 246 bridge loans totaling $5 million. The approval retained almost 2,500 full-time jobs and about 1,000 part-time jobs.

Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said Friday 170,000 people have filed for unemployment in Arkansas.

Preston also announced his department has made significant process in creating the new system for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers in the state. Preston said the goal is to have the system running by the end of the month. The Commerce Secretary said he expects a minimum of 125,000 Arkansans to file for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Preston announced the EZARC site will be down from 6 a.m. until noon on Saturday so they can move the site to a larger mainframe. According to Preston, the site is running up against a capacity issue. Preston says this should stop intermittent crashes.

Preston also announced starting Sunday, the call center will be open seven days a week. The number for the call center is 844-908-2178.

Preston said he was glad to hear that Congress approved additional funds into the Paycheck Protection Program. He said 22,000 businesses in Arkansas received $2.7 billion, but there are about 13,000 businesses waiting, which will be about an additional $1.1 billion. Preston says he hopes that money will start flowing soon.

Preston said the Insurance Department also wanted to make sure people knew that if they lost their employer-based health insurance, they may qualify for a policy under Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. To find out more, call 844-355-3262 or visit the Arkansas Insurance Department’s website by clicking here.

The governor also announced Friday he signed a state disaster declaration for 11 counties because of the storm damage on Easter Sunday.

The governor also announced he has asked for a federal disaster declaration for the Jonesboro tornado in March. According to Governor Hutchinson, there was half a billion dollars of damage in Jonesboro due to the storms.

The governor also wished a happy 100th birthday to US Army Air Corps veteran Louis Strickland, who is currently in the state veteran’s home.

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