Record 2,789 new cases; shorter quarantine rules

(12/3/20) Record 2,789 new cases reported; governor shares shortened quarantine guidelines

The following statistics were shared at a COVID-19 update provided by the governor on Thursday, Dec. 3, and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:

  • 164,310 total cases, up 2,789 from Wednesday.
  • 17,109 total active cases, up 731 from Wednesday.
  • 2,555 total deaths, up 33 from Wednesday.
  • 1,072 cases requiring hospitalization, down 16 from Wednesday.
  • 190 cases requiring a ventilator, up four from Wednesday. 
  • 4,005 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 56 from Wednesday.
  • 410 active cases in Garland County, up four from Wednesday.
  • 3,488 recoveries in Garland County.
  • 105 deaths in Garland County, no change from Wednesday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 2,017, with 1,915 from the community and 102 from correctional facilities. There were 772 positive antigen results from a total of 2,945 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests received in the past 24 hours was 13,228. 

Hutchinson outlined new quarantine guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which ADH will be adopting. The CDC asserts that the safest timeframe for quarantine remains at 14 days, yet an asymptomatic individual can now be released from quarantine after 10 days. If the individual gets a negative test result on or after their fifth day in quarantine, they can come out of quarantine after seven days. He explained three reasons for this shortening of the quarantine guidelines: data shows a much lower chance of transmission after the initial seven days of infection; long quarantines are difficult for individuals, families and communities; and it is the hope of the CDC that the new guidelines will encourage greater compliance. 

Secretary of Education Johnny Key said that this news is welcome for schools around the state. He said the main reason schools have had to pivot to virtual learning is because of the number of quarantined teachers and the lack of substitute teachers. “Every day that we can salvage and save for onsite learning for our students is going to be a better day of education for them,” he said. 

Chris Barber, president and CEO St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro and member of Winter COVID-19 Task Force, was invited by the governor to give an update. Barber began by offering some positive insights with regards to new COVID treatments, upcoming vaccines and the fact that the Winter COVID-19 Task Force continues to work diligently on slowing the spread of the virus and best utilizing the state’s resources. However, he also offered an honest appraisal of what lies ahead. “What is upon us for the next two or three months is very challenging. The healthcare system in the state will be stretched and challenged at a level we have never experienced before. We are up for the task, but it is going to take all of us,” he said. Although there is “light at the end of the tunnel,” he said we all need to “double down on our efforts” with regards to the basics of wearing masks, and wearing them appropriately, socially distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowds and being mindful of the risks involved with indoor settings.    

Hutchinson said the state has requested 10 hospital beds in the Veterans Hospital in Little Rock, to include five ICU beds and five medical surgical beds, so that there will be expanded capacity, particularly as TraumaComm is brought online. He said this will provide added relief as additional hospitalizations are expected over the next three weeks and beyond. 

He shared that there are 32 counties today with 20 cases or more and three counties – Washington, Benton and Pulaski – with more than 200 new cases. 

“This is a message to everyone that, wherever you are in the state of Arkansas, that there are increased number of COVID cases, increased level of spread, and you have to protect yourself. You have to wear your mask and keep the social distance. And, if you can avoid a social gathering over 10, that’s something that you should do,” said Hutchinson. 

Romero also spoke about the increasing number of cases in the state. 

“Unfortunately, I believe this is going to continue,” which he said means we should become more stringent with mitigation efforts. “This is a public responsibility,” he said. “Without your help, this can’t be brought under control.”

12-3-20 ADH daily graphic