Hutchinson provides details for Winter Strategy

The following statistics were shared at the governor’s weekly COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:

  • 11-3-20 ADH daily graphic114,519 total cases, up 878 from Monday.
  • 105,223 total confirmed cases, up 520 from Monday. 
  • 9,296 total probable cases, up 358 from Monday.
  • 9,836 total active cases, down 299 from Monday.
  • 102,666 recoveries, up 1,159 from Monday.
  • 2,003 total deaths, up 18 from Monday.
  • 667 cases requiring hospitalization, down 21 from Monday.
  • 121 cases requiring a ventilator, up two from Monday. 
  • 2,666 cumulative cases in Garland County, up six from Monday.
  • 280 active cases in Garland County, down 13 from Monday.
  • 2,313 recoveries in Garland County, up 19 from Monday.
  • 73 deaths in Garland County, no change from Monday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 520, with 515 from the community and five from correctional facilities. There were 358 positive antigen results from a total of 1,279 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests completed in the past 24 hours was 5,131. 

The total number of PCR tests recorded in the month of October was 310,293; the total of antigen tests was 40,209.

There were 12 counties with more than 20 new cases in the past 24 hours, including Benton with 96, Washington with 77, Pulaski with 66, Craighead with 38, Sebastian with 37 and Saline with 34.

Hutchinson invited Bo Ryall, president and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association, to speak about COVID-19 hospitalizations as they have reached their highest levels recently, particularly in the Northeast and Central regions of the state. Ryall said that hospital bed capacity in these areas is tight, “but the total beds available is not the issue, it is the number of healthcare workers available to staff the beds.” He attributed the shortage of healthcare workers to fatigue, competition from other states, increasing costs and community exposure. He said that COVID patients currently account for 10% of occupied hospital beds, 26% of occupied ICU beds and 31% of the ventilators being used. “Reports from every region of the state indicate fatigue from healthcare workers in treating COVID patients. As we begin to think about our own fatigue, let’s consider the effort going on by healthcare workers across our state and their fatigue. These healthcare heroes have been working around the clock to treat COVID patients, and to begin to see decreases in hospitalizations we, as a state, need to remain vigilant in complying with wearing a mask, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings. If we continue to see these cases escalate, we in turn will have hospitalizations increase and the stress on the healthcare system will be felt,” he said.  

Hutchinson outlined a layered Winter Strategy with an introductory analogy to the fundamentals of football – blocking and tackling – in comparison to the basic strategy of fighting COVID-19. The first layer of the strategy involves the individual responsibility of social distancing, abiding by the mask mandate and getting a flu shot. The next layer – support from health officials, schools and the community – includes continued testing of at least an equivalent of 6% of the state’s population each month, contact tracing and quarantining, compliance checks, marketing and developing a plan for vaccine distribution. He admitted that the most difficult part of the second layer is the quarantining of 14 days for anyone with probable exposure to the virus, which he explained is why social distancing is so vital. 

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero reiterated the importance of taking this disease seriously, particularly as families make plans for the upcoming holidays. He suggested limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, and reminded everyone that a lot of the transmission of the virus at this time is happening between family members and small group gatherings.  

Among the graphs shown by Hutchinson was one that compared death rates by cause, which he said provided perspective about the seriousness of COVID-19. It showed COVID-19 as currently being the third highest cause of death for Arkansans, behind only cancer and heart attacks.

Secretary of Education Johnny Key said that last week the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) continued to see progress with decreasing on-site modifications as there were eight modifications reported last week, down from 11 the week before. As of this morning, there were 10 districts still implementing some type of on-site modification. A total of 185 schools have returned from a previous on-site modification to regular instruction. ADE responded to a major concern from educators across the state about the engagement of students in online learning by launching Engage Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. Key said that so far 118 districts have signed up to participate with more than 15,000 students who have been referred for not being engaged in their online learning. Education Renewal Zones from across the state will be identifying student support services to reach out to these students to help them be better engaged.