Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,695; May 4 goal for lifting restriction

(04/17/20)  Arkansas COVID-19 cases up to 1,695; May 4 goal for lifting restriction  At Governor Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conference, the following updates as of 1:30 p.m. were shared:

  • 1,695 total confirmed cases (up 75 from 1,620 on April 16)
  • 107 confirmed cases in Garland County (from the ADH COVID-19 status page)
  • 1,065 active cases, which discounts recoveries and deaths
  • 93 COVID-19 patients in the hospital (up eight)
  • 23 patients currently on a ventilator (up two)
  • 37 COVID-19-related deaths (no change)
  • 228 healthcare workers with COVID-19 (up five)

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith reported on the outbreaks in the prisons. The Federal Correctional Institute at Forest City has seven new inmates with COVID-19, for an updated total of 62. Three new inmates at Little Rock Community Corrections account for a new total there of 89 cases, including staff. Cummins State Prison had 89 new positive cases, for a new total of 129 cases. The new numbers at Cummins State Prison are not yet included in the overall case updates because the Little Rock VA Hospital assisted in those tests.  

Following a report to the governor from his Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response, Hutchinson announced that May 4 is the target date for the state to begin lifting some of the restrictions that are currently in place. Arkansas is already meeting some of the criteria offered by the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. Arkansas is still in an upswing on new cases, and the guidelines require a downward trajectory within a 14-day period. The state is increasing testing capacity every day, and recently expanded criteria to allow testing of all symptomatic individuals, but Hutchinson said we still need to increase in that area. As hospitalizations have remained less than 100, the state remains ready with ample ventilators and general hospital and ICU beds to meet all foreseeable needs, according to Smith.

Smith and Hutchinson both continued to strongly encourage social distancing with cloth facial coverings in public when distancing is not possible, handwashing, staying at home when ill and avoiding groups greater than 10. “To meet the criteria to go into Phase I, we have to be able to manage the spread and continue to reduce that, and we need everyone’s cooperation to follow the guidelines,” said Hutchinson.

With the question of whether Arkansas will take a statewide or county-level approach, Smith indicated that the likely path with be statewide, with respect given to the regional differences across the state.

Possibly even prior to Arkansas entering Phase I of the tiered re-opening, Smith suggested that the state will try to start back some of the elective surgical procedures in a safe manner. Since those have been restricted, hospitals and clinics have seen less patients, which equates to decreased revenues and decreased staffing, Smith explained. “To be able to take care of patients with COVID-19 as well as other medical and surgical conditions, we need to have a fully-staffed and robust hospitals and other medical facilities,” he said.

Hutchinson also recognized the service to our country of Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 42, of Fort Smith, who passed away from COVID-19 after contracting the virus while aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.