Hutchinson and task force urge limiting gatherings

(11/20/20) Hutchinson and task force rep’s urge for limited indoor gatherings

The following statistics were shared at the governor’s second COVID-19 update this week on Friday, Nov. 20, and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:

  • 141,916 total cases, up 2,061 from Thursday.
  • 17,360 total active cases, up 362 from Thursday.
  • 122,219 recoveries, up 1,674 from Thursday.
  • 2,321 total deaths, up 24 from Thursday.
  • 935 cases requiring hospitalization, up 36 from Thursday.
  • 152 cases requiring a ventilator, up six from Thursday. 
  • 3,416 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 66 from Thursday.
  • 440 active cases in Garland County, up 25 from Thursday.
  • 2,877 recoveries in Garland County, up 43 from Thursday.
  • 99 deaths in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 1,618, with 1,600 from the community and 18 from correctional facilities. There were 443 positive antigen results from a total of 3,383 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests completed in the past 24 hours was 15,095, a new daily high. 

Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS and member of the Winter COVID Task Force, said that the sub-committee he is chairing regarding resources in the state found that there is a statewide supply of more than 60 days of personal protective equipment (PPE). He said the testing resources “are not perfect, but are certainly considerably better” than what they have been. He said that new guidelines regarding quarantine for essential hospital workers are being released today. They allow for healthcare workers to return to work if they obtain a negative PCR test 5-7 days after their exposure to the virus. He said this is important because just at UAMS, they currently have nearly 400 employees under quarantine, “which creates all kinds of challenges for us” as the patient counts increase. Also, if the situation worsens and a hospital “is in desperate need for bedside caregivers,” asymptomatic healthcare workers that have tested positive for COVID would be able to return to work to care for COVID-positive patients. 

Larry Shackelford, president and CEO of Washington Regional Medical System and another sub-committee chair on the Winter COVID Task Force overseeing opportunities to reduce the rate of spread, spoke about limiting indoor gatherings. He said such gatherings usually increase this time of year, particularly around the Thanksgiving holiday, but that patient care may be hindered if this holiday proves to be similar to previous holidays during the pandemic. He encouraged everyone to be very mindful of not gathering in groups of 10 or more and not gathering with more than two households. He said that Northwest Arkansas has had a 40% increase over the past two weeks with individuals needing in-patient care. Nonetheless, he said, “Where we are today, we do have capacity to not only take care of COVID patients, but other patients that need in-patient care. But it’s important that we act now. If we see two weeks from today the kinds of increases that we’ve seen two weeks following other [holidays], then we are going to be at the point that it will be challenging to meet those needs.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero shared new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the upcoming holiday, which include strongly discouraging travel outside of one’s own area, “even within the state,” he said. He and Patterson called for “a nuclear Thanksgiving,” being family-centered and less than 10 people of those living within your home. Opening up windows in your home is also encouraged. 

Hutchinson also announced that the Nursing Licensing Board for Arkansas will provide a 24-hour turnaround for the 1,104 nursing students slated to graduate soon in the state, as well as waiving their application fee. “We need to get those nurses on board quickly. We need them to help relieve some of the challenge we face,” he said. 

11-20-20 ADH daily graphic