Coronavirus in AR: State officials discuss Economic Recovery Task Force, working group for testing capability

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and other state officials discussed a rise in test reporting especially out of the Cummins Unit, the first meeting of the Economic Recovery Task Force and the creation of a working group for testing capability.

Governor Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon that there was an increase of 304 cases, which brought the state’s total number of cases for the coronavirus to 2,227 cases. Of the 304 newly-reported cases, state officials say 262 are from the Cummins Unit and 42 are from elsewhere in the state.

The state’s death toll due to complications from the coronavirus rose by one Tuesday to 43, according to state officials.

Eighty-six people are in the hospital due to the coronavirus, which is a net decrease of seven, according to Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health. Dr. Smith said there were seven new hospitalizations and 14 who were discharged from the hospital.

Twenty-seven people are on ventilators, which is an increase of three from Monday.

According to Dr. Smith, 670 inmates and at least 10 staff have tested positive at the Cummins Unit as of 10 p.m. Monday. Dr. Smith said all inmates have been tested, but not all results are in. Staff members are still being tested.

Dr. Smith said of the 2,227 cases in Arkansas, 1,375 of them are active cases.

According to Dr. Smith, five more workers tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 249.

Seven additional nursing home residents tested positive for the virus, which brought the total to 135 nursing home residents with the virus. Out of the new positive cases, three are in Batesville, two are in Willow Bend, one is in Randolph County and one is at the Village at Valley Ranch.

Four additional nursing home workers also tested positive for the virus, one at the Waters of White Hall, one at LA Health and Rehab, one Crestpark in Wynne and one at the Village at Valley Ranch, according to Dr. Smith

There are now 29 nursing homes with active investigations, according to Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith said Tuesday 809 people have recovered from the virus, which is 60 more than the day before.

Dr. Smith said if you take out the positives from the correctional facilities, we are seeing a downward trend in increase of cases. According to Dr. Smith, there were an average of 70 positive cases last week, and so far, this week’s average is about half of that.

Dr. Smith also said there are not hot spots at this time anywhere in the state except for the prison.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order Tuesday creating a working group on testing capacity in Arkansas. The governor said the group is composed of testing experts and doctors.

Governor Hutchinson said the Economic Recovery Task Force was created to help the economy. The task force met Tuesday for the first time.

Steuwart Walton is the chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force. Walton said there were committees were created, and are being led by cabinet secretaries. Secretary Stacy Hurst leads the Committee on Tourism, Community and Health. Secretary Mike Preston leads the Committee on Commerce. Wes Ward leads the Committee on Agriculture, Culture and Education. Walton said the task force is working to set recommendations on relaxing restrictions on May 4. Walton said the goal is to have an interim report by the end of May and have a final report by the end of June. Walton said the goal is also for the task force to set strategic recommendations for businesses and industry to recover.

When asked if the state was at the peak, the governor said, “I hope we’re at our peak and ready to go down”. The governor said the numbers outside of the prison indicate that.

Dr. Smith said salons and barber shops are not in the White House’s Phase One guidance because of the contact at those businesses. Dr. Smith said officials are looking to see if there’s a way to resume those type of businesses sooner.

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