Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor announces state is receiving remdesivir from CDC

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon the state is receiving a quantity of the new drug remdesivir from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Remdesivir is produced by Gilead Sciences, Inc. and is to help patients as they are having respiratory problems or on a ventilator.

According to the governor, the state will receive enough doses for 50 patients.

As of Tuesday, 59 people are hospitalized due to the coronavirus in the state. The governor said not all 59 people will qualify for the drug.

According to Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, 52 patients in Arkansas might meet the criteria to receive the drug.

Dr. Smith said remdesivir showed some activity, but is not a miracle drug.

Smith said the drug is not for those with severe liver or kidney disease.

The governor said the Arkansas Department of Health will distribute the drug.

Smith said the patient’s treatment team will decide if the patient will receive the treatment.

The governor also announced as of Tuesday afternoon, there are 4,164 cumulative cases and 95 deaths in the state.

The governor said of the 121 new cases announced, 100 are in communities and 21 are in a prison setting.

Of the new cases, 27 were reported in St. Francis County, according to the governor. Forrest City and the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City are in St. Francis County. The governor said this is concerning.

Dr. Smith also expressed concern about the cases in St. Francis County. Smith said some of the testing coming from St. Francis County was due to UAMS and the Department of Health testing the community. Dr. Smith said many FCI workers have not been tested, and encouraged the workers to get tested. Smith said his department is working with community leaders to do more testing in an organized way.

Dr. Smith said as of Tuesday, 849 cases were considered active.

Dr. Smith said his department is following 50 nursing homes in the state due to having at least one resident or staff test positive for the virus. Smith said 299 residents and 174 staff have tested positive for the coronavirus.

At the Cummins Unit, there were three new cases of inmates testing positive, bringing the total number of inmates testing positive for the virus to 900. Sixty Cummins staff have also tested positive for the coronavirus.

There were no new reports from the FCI in Forrest City, according to Smith.

The governor said 1,753 tests were done Monday.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that the Arkansas Department of Health will issue a cease and desist order against a concert venue in Fort Smith.

Travis McCready, a country-rock singer, was scheduled to perform Friday at Temple Live.

This is three days before the state directive about indoor venues such as theaters, areas and stadiums could reopen.

Governor Hutchinson said there were a couple of different issues with the venue’s plans.

One was the timing, according to the governor.

The governor also said the venue planned on having about 250 people in attendance. The directive limited indoor venues to fewer than 50 people.

The governor also said the venue had to have their plan approved by ADH, and it was not.

Governor Hutchinson said the cease and desist is an official, legal directive.

The governor announced Tuesday he hopes to outline additional initiatives Wednesday for testing for the rest of the month. State officials have a goal of testing 60,000 Arkansans, which is about two percent of the state’s population, in May.

The governor also announced Tuesday that decisions on bars will be announced on May 18. A decision on summer camps and team sports will be announced on May 20, according to the governor.

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