Arkansas coronavirus cases jumped by more than 50 percent from Thursday, to 100 in 22 counties, now including Benton and Greene. UPDATE: When the governor held his news meeting, the count was 96, but it was updated.
The cases include people in three nursing homes. Two of them were hospitalized for other issues. One is in Pine Bluff, apparently arising from the exposure that began with a patient and health workers in that area. The other two aren’t certain.
Here’s the release on the nursing homes, which are identified as Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. There is one each at the first two and 13 at Briarwood — nine residents and four staff.
Eight of the 96 (the number during the afternoon briefing) are children younger than 19. Sixty-two are aged 19 to 64 and 26 are 65 or older. They are split about evenly by gender and 71 percent are white.
The latest update:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the growth in cases emphasized the need for people to act in ways that lessen the potential for spread.
The governor released today the Health Department directives for business operation. These included closure of gyms and other event venues and end of in-house dining. He said, in response apparently to some fears, that further limitations aren’t planned that would affect industry. He said, however, he expected these businesses to take proper precautions.
Among other news:
The state has provided $30 million to buy personal protective equipment for hospitals and others.
Health Director Nate Smith said the state is most concerned about the nursing homes, with vulnerable populations. The state is working to test all patients and staff and will segregate those who test positive. He noted the state had stopped visiting at long-term care facilities
Education Secretary Johnny Key said the state would cancel the scheduled ACT/Aspire test this spring, as the federal government allowed today. He said this will also affect K-2 tests and the dynamic learning map assessment for students with learning difficulties. The impact of skipping the test will be important. It’s the primary measurer of school report cards and used, for example, to justify the takeover of Little Rock and other school districts. Key acknowledged some difficulties in alternate instruction methods at home. And additional take-home work must be prepared for the additional three weeks of closure and some districts are better equipped to handle this than others. He also acknowledged shortages in broadband access. He said the state is trying to develop places with broadband where students could go with phones and computers (if they have them) to reach Internet instruction. “It’s messy and it’s going to be for some time,” he said. He vowed to provide education “as good as possible” under difficult circumstances.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she’d move $3 million from her consumer fund (built with lawsuit settlements) to a quick-action loan fund for small businesses, in addition to $4 million Hutchinson had committed earlier. She said the office had counted about 180 price gouging complaints, but many were Facebook jokes. She said the office had about two dozen complaints under investigation.
Unaddressed today was whether the state would follow the federal government in extending income tax filing and payment deadline to July 15.