Gov. Asa Hutchinson today reported another death, the sixth linked to coronavirus in the state, and the number of confirmed cases has risen. In a late afternoon update, the number was put at 449.
“We are encouraged we are not accelerating as fast as some other areas of the country,” he said. He said he hoped it indicates an impact from the encouragement of social distancing. “We need to keep the course and work hard on this every day.”
At least 49 more counties in Arkansas now have confirmed cases although Arkansas has one of the lowest testing rates in the country
Health Director Nate Smith said 43 people are hospitalized, with 16 on ventilators. Another 43 are in nursing homes. The additional death was someone older than 65 who died at home. 28 have recovered. He said 67 of those with confirmed virus cases are healthcare workers.
Smith added to weddings, funerals and other gatherings a place to be careful about grouping together — the grocery store. “We don’t all need to be crowded together,” he said. He suggested that fewer members of a family go to the store (younger if possible); don’t shop as often, and keep distance in lines.
He said he was encouraged numbers had not taken off “exponentially” and that there hadn’t been an increase in hospitalizations.
In response to questions, the governor said he hoped to have good news about testing tomorrow. He said the federal government had been a good partner but had made it clear it was up to the states to obtain their testing supplies. He welcomed federal action to begin the production of more ventilators.
But the governor insisted, “We want more data in Arkansas. The testing gives us the data.”
Smith was asked about people with symptoms in families with confirmed cases of the infection who report they have not been tested. Smith said such people are presumed to be positive, but they aren’t reported in the numbers. “But from a practical standpoint, we’d consider those presumed cases.” But he said the priority for limited testing capability have been healthcare workers and people with more serious health conditions.
The person who died had been hospitalized but went home after showing signs of improvement. All the deaths have involved respiratory problems but it’s not always possible to sort out causes of death.
Smith noted that “shelter in place” policies haven’t yet been proven to be successful. The rate of growth is higher in some places with such policies than in Arkansas, for example, (particularly in dense urban areas.) At some point, he hopes it will be possible to evaluate.
The governor opened the briefing with acknowledgment of the tornado damage Saturday in Jonesboro. He said he’d tour Jonesboro this afternoon and has a 5 p.m. news conference. He has declared a disaster there to speed federal aid.