TASK FORCE: Led by City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris (left) and Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

The Little Rock School District is moving forward with plans to use some of its staff and school buildings for “day camps” for the children of health care workers in Central Arkansas. LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore appeared before the city of Little Rock COVID-19 Task Force on Friday to update the group on his progress.

The task force also heard about a new rapid turnaround coronavirus blood test and discussed overflow plans and ways to create more protective equipment.

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Little Rock teachers will begin assisting at Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Child Enrichment Center beginning April 6. Plans are still being formulated to assist other hospitals.

“The number who need help is astronomical,” said at-large City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris, who heads the task force.

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Poore said he had been working with hospitals to survey their needs, develop agreements and figure out how to provide the help safely to children and staff. He said he thought each LRSD campus could handle no more than 100 kids. Each school would be staffed with a school nurse, secretaries, paraprofessionals and some teachers. The day camps would be open for 12 hours and be staffed in shifts. Teachers would provide several hours of instructional support. Because the care will be provided by LRSD staff in their normal course of employment it won’t cost anything for health care workers.

UAMS CEO Dr. Steppe Mette said that, by the end of the weekend, the group, which represents all the major Little Rock hospitals, would complete a “surge plan” for how their hospitals would deal with the peak of the novel coronavirus in Central Arkansas. “While each one of our organizations has standard surge plans for a disaster, these tend to be short-lived disasters … maybe a week,” Mette said. “This is a totally different kind of response needed for something that can last six, eight, 12 weeks, maybe six months, who knows? It requires a different degree of planning, including a real attention to resource utilization.”

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Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said that a number of local hotel owners had offered rooms to house patients if necessary. He’s identified approximately 1,000 rooms for low-acute, elderly and housing insecure people who might need to be quarantined.

“We hope there’s no need to have these rooms utilized,” Scott said. 

Mette added that the Arkansas Department of Health and the Department of Human Services were working on a facility in Central Little Rock for homeless people who require quarantine. He said it would have around 25 rooms.

Lisa McDonald, who according to her LinkedIn page represents CirQuest Labs of Memphis, told the task force that her company had developed a finger-prick, point-of-care test for COVID-19. It provides results within 15 minutes, McDonald said.

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McDonald said the test was primarily designed to rule out the coronavirus in patients. Separating patients who are suffering from other illnesses from those who are infected with COVID-19 is a particular challenge for hospitals.

The ones that are positive you’d go ahead and do the swab and do the PCR testing,” McDonald suggested. 

Dr. Gerry Jones, chief medical officer at CHI St. Vincent, told the group about an open-source face shield frame that could be constructed with a 3D printer. With the frame and a three-hole punch, a sheet protector found at any office supply company could be inserted to form the shield. Kumpuris said that Poore had volunteered all of the district’s 3D printers and UA Little Rock, UA Fayetteville and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub had also offered to pitch in.

Scott said that local manufacturers were also ready to help.