Hutchinson shares rising numbers

(11/17/20) Hutchinson shares rising numbers and stark warning from White House report

The following statistics were shared at the governor’s weekly COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Nov. 17, and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:

  • 135,902 total cases, up 1,554 from Monday.
  • 16,576 total active cases, up 91 from Monday.
  • 117,068 recoveries, up 1,443 from Monday.
  • 2,245 total deaths, up 20 from Monday.
  • 895 cases requiring hospitalization, up 34 from Monday.
  • 137 cases requiring a ventilator, up 14 from Monday. 
  • 3,248 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 28 from Monday.
  • 415 active cases in Garland County, down 15 from Monday.
  • 2,740 recoveries in Garland County, up 101 from Monday.
  • 93 deaths in Garland County, up two from Monday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 1,145, with 1,132 from the community and 13 from correctional facilities. There were 409 positive antigen results from a total of 3,234 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests completed in the past 24 hours was 7,452. 

There were 23 counties with more than 20 new cases in the past 24 hours, and three counties with more than 100 new cases. 

The 7-day rolling average of positive PCR tests has risen above the 10% mark with the spike in new cases and widespread community transmission in recent weeks, which Hutchinson said was also noted by the White House Report. The antigen positivity rate is up to between 20-25%, and a combination of the PCR and antigen positivity rates is above 12%.

Hutchinson shared that there have been 166,519 PCR tests performed to-date in November toward this month’s goal of 190,000, which he said demonstrates the demand and the increased testing capacity. The total number of antigen tests so far this month is at 27,320, which already well exceeds this month’s goal of 20,000.

Between Nov. 8-14, the growth rate by region shows that the Central Region has risen up to 9.9%, behind only the Northeast Region at 10.4%. The growth rate by age group shows the 0-17 group with the highest rate at 10.1%, followed by the 45-64 group at 9.5%, the 65-and-old group at 9.3%, and the 25-44 age group at 9.1%.

Hutchinson said that the Winter COVID-19 Task Force met, and continues to meet in sub-committees. They are charged with the responsibility to “comment and advise in particular areas, including staffing shortages, statewide coordination of bed space, as well as comments related to the slowing of community spread and whether there are additional steps that are appropriate to be taken,” he said, adding that the state has “coordinated bed space regionally really well, but we will need to coordinate it statewide as things get tighter.” 

Hutchinson referred to and quoted the recent White House COVID-19 report on Arkansas that came out this week. “Given the change in the slope in the last two weeks, post Halloween, and this is specific to Arkansas, Arkansas is on the precipice of a rapid accelerating increase in cases, which will be followed with new hospital admissions.” He said, “That is a statement that will get your attention as a leader. We look at the holiday season that is approaching, and we have to be mindful that if Arkansas continues at the present pace, over the last two days, then Arkansas will have an additional 1,000 Arkansans that will die as a result of COVID-19 between now and Christmas.” He encouraged everyone to use that information “to inspire us to do well, to follow the guidelines, to do everything that we can to break that trend.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero echoed the governor in respect to the White House report: “We are on the precipice of a significant, and possibly an uncontrollable rise in cases. This is like a boulder rolling down a hill; there will come a time where we cannot stop it. It will continue to escalate, and will eventually overwhelm our healthcare facilities. Now is the time to act, and I cannot stress enough the importance of the three W’s. I’ll say it again, I’m sorry, wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.” With respect to the upcoming holiday, he urged families to consider postponing Thanksgiving with elderly family members, who are the most vulnerable to this virus, until a later date.

Hutchinson said he is scheduled on Thursday to have a conference call with “Vice President Joe Biden, as well as his transition team, in conjunction with [his] role on the executive committee and vice chair of the National Governors Association.” He explained that the call is set up so that Biden “can get the information he needs from the states as his transition team starts to prepare for January 20, and what we expect will be a necessary transition.” He said this is important “so they will know what Arkansas and other states are doing to fight this pandemic.”

Hutchinson introduced the topic of compliance and enforcement by sharing that ADH has completed more than 3,500 compliance checks since the end of June, added to the more than 3,700 done by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, with the latter resulting in 181 citations and 210 verbal warnings. Mike Moore, who is over enforcement at this division, said that the 93% compliance rate proves that bars and restaurants are trying, but even 7% of non-compliance “can cause some huge problems when it comes to this COVID-19 disease that our whole state is battling.” He said the goal is “to provide education and a little bit of accountability that will help folks be safe when they’re visiting restaurants, bars and clubs,” along with keeping these establishments open to serve the public and provide paychecks for their employees. With four months of warnings, he said the accountability will be heightened “to see if we can get better results”

Secretary Stacy Hurst, of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, shared information about the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program. The Arkansas legislature and CARES Committee approved $50 million for this grant program that is focused on businesses directly impacted by government order related to COVID-19, particularly entities in the hospitality and personal care fields. Eligible businesses based on reimbursement of certain expenses can apply or find out more information via the online portal that opened Nov. 16 at www.arkansasready.com. This is not a first come, first served grant program, Hurst explained, and it is open through Nov. 25. There is also the BIG Resource Center call center available at 888-722-1554, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Secretary of Education Johnny Key noted an increase in school and district on-site modifications, which he said comes at no surprise with the increase in community cases across the state. There were 46 on-site modifications of schools/districts going to remote learning last week, Nov. 8-14. This week, as of today, there have been 16 schools/districts that have made on-site modifications. There are 72 active on-site modifications and 204 modifications that have been closed, or reverted to regular instruction. Key commended school districts in working toward the “collective goal to maximize the number of students for on-site instruction for the maximum amount of time this school year, and do so in a way that emphasizes health and safety.”

11-17-20 ADH daily graphic