Governor provides COVID mitigation strategies for

The following statistics were shared Tuesday, Sept. 22, at Governor Asa Hutchinson's weekly COVID-19 update and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:76,981 total cases, up 617 from Monday.

  • 74,772 total confirmed cases, up 486 from Monday. 
  • 2,209 total probable cases, up 131 from Monday.
  • 6,583 total active cases, down 123 from Monday.
  • 6,188 active confirmed cases, down 111 from Monday.
  • 67,519 recoveries, up 585 from Monday.
  • 1,060 total deaths, up 12 from Monday.
  • 149 probable deaths, no change from Monday.
  • 459 cases requiring hospitalization, up 12 from Monday.
  • 97 cases requiring a ventilator, up 23 from Monday. 
  • 1,771 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 21 from Monday.
  • 140 active cases in Garland County, up nine from Monday.
  • 1,582 recoveries in Garland County, up 12 from Monday.
  • 49 deaths in Garland County, no change from Monday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 486, with 465 from the community and 21 from correctional facilities. There were 112 positive antigen test results from a total of 651 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests completed in the past 24 hours was 6,810. 

The five counties with the highest number of new cases in the past 24 hours include Pulaski with 80, Benton with 55, Craighead with 30, Sebastian with 28 and Washington with 26.

The growth rate of new cases by public health region from September 13-19 shows the Central Region, in which Garland County is included, is second behind the Northeast Region, followed by the Northwest, Southeast and Southwest, respectively. The growth rate of new cases by age group in the same time period shows the 18-24 group leading the way, followed by the 65-and-older, then the 0-17, 45-64 and 25-44. 

Hutchinson outlined some strategies for mitigating the pandemic as we head into the fall and winter. “You’ve heard Dr. Fauci and others say that with flu season coming on, that with the cold weather, it could be a very difficult time that we’re going to come into here in the late fall and winter months. I want everybody in Arkansas to be prepared for what’s ahead, and to continue our focus because we’re going to be living with COVID for some time; but as everyone knows we’re increasing our activity from school to sports, and we want to continue that, but we can’t lose focus of our strategy,” he said. The state’s winter strategies include the following: 

  • An increase public flu shot participation. They encourage everyone to get a flu shot before the end of October. Local health units have begun free walk-up flu shot clinics.
  • Perform 1 million COVID-19 tests by October 20. To date, the state has recorded 897,000 PCR tests.
  • Increase consistency of state contact tracing. Stephanie Williams, of ADH, shared that there has been a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to complete their contact tracing investigation once ADH receives positive test results. The average time between the collection of the test sample and the positive test result reported to ADH is 3 days, 9 hours and 23 minutes. The average time between the case being assigned to a nurse and the nurse completing the investigation is 1 day, 17 hours and 49 minutes. Lastly, the average time between the case being assigned to a contact tracer and the tracer completing their activities is 23 hours and 10 minutes.
  • Emphasize continued wearing of masks and social distancing. Hutchinson said community leaders need to lead by example, and that “the school children have really set the example for us” in terms of wearing face masks.
  • The final winter strategy: “Do not grow weary!” 

Secretary of Education Johnny Key said that as of the middle of the fifth week of school, there has been a total of 106 schools that have had some type of modified operations. He added that 83 of those have already moved back to normal operation, meaning 23 are currently still in modified operations (with one being from a water line break and 22 from COVID-19).

Secretary of Corrections Solomon Graves provided updated statistics regarding the prison population. There are 379 active cases within the department, down from a peak of 1,001 in July. There are seven inmates being treated in hospitals, and two require the use of a ventilator. A total of 39 inmates have died from COVID-19. They are currently bringing in inmates in cohorts of 48. There is a quarantine period of 14 days, during which the new inmates are tested a minimum of three times. Inmates are also tested before they are released.

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said that those who qualify for the Lost Wages program under Unemployment Insurance from Aug. 1-22 must go back in and recertify that their unemployment was due to a result of a COVID-19 impact to make them eligible. The deadline is this Friday, Sept. 25. The state has currently paid out more than $47 million through this program, of which they are paying into the second of three weeks approved thus far by FEMA. He also said the state is seeing unemployment numbers continue to tick down, with the latest figures being 37,000 continued unemployment claims and 42,000 on pandemic unemployment.

9-22-20 ADH daily graphic