Positive tests for coronavirus in Arkansas rose to 473 today, with a seventh death, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The death was a person older than 65 in a nursing home. She was among those infected at the Briarwood Nursing Home in Little Rock, the Democrat-Gazette reported.
The county count rose to 50, with the addition of Arkansas County.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state had “locked in” some delivery dates for important equipment and learned the $30 million already dedicated wouldn’t be enough. As a result, he announced he had authorized $45 million MORE for purchase or protection equipment and ventilators as they become available. The money must be allocated in advance to get into the supply chain. He said the state is looking 60 days down the road at needs.
Hutchinson said he’d talked to Donald Trump and Mike Pence today, who said great attention was being focused on “hot spots” — New York, for example — which makes it harder for Arkansas to fill orders. It’s a “seller’s market,” he said. The state is making larger purchases to compete.
The coronavirus aid act approved by Congress will bring a significant amount of money to Arkansas, Hutchinson said, an estimated $1.25 billion. As a result, he said he’d signed an executive order establishing a 15-member steering committee to guide the use of the federal money through this calendar year. He said he didn’t anticipate using the new money to plug other budget holes, but for coronavirus response. That could include hospital beds as well as equipment. He noted the length of need for purchases isn’t known. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next year with it.”
The latest report from the Health Department says 62 people are hospitalized — 21 on ventilators — and 47 are nursing home residents, with an additional nursing home, for a total of five, with cases.
73 health care workers are infected.
There was some talk about a hot issue on social media — gatherings of people in outdoor recreation.
Health Director Nate Smith said outdoor sports are fine, as long as six-foot separations are observed. Easy at tennis. Not so easy at basketball. The governor likes basketball. Smith said it would be fine if he played alone.
He also urged people to be mindful to avoid being close together if they take advantage of parks. Social media has been full of photos at the Buffalo River, popular trailheads and state parks.
He also said a healthy distance was also important in small gatherings.
Stacy Hurst, who oversees state parks, said they remain open but steps have been taken to reduce risks. Lodges are closed. Camping is limited to RVs only. Bathhouses and visitor centers and museums are largely closed. There’s a “contactless” check-in for camping.
“We need everyone to take very responsibility they have to help flatten the curve,” Hurst said. Even outside, group congregation should be avoided. “We hope that doesn’t continue to happen.” Officers will be reminding people to practice “social distancing.” I suspect this warning resulted from Facebook posts such as this that said crowds at Petit Jean State Park over the weekend looked like the Fourth of July.
Hutchinson said restrictions on casino operation that expire tomorrow will be extended.
Among other questions, the governor was asked about the low testing rate in Arkansas compared with others, on a per capita basis, as reported kast weekend by the New York Times.
“Every state that is not a hot spot is struggling to get the testing kits,” Hutchinson said. “That is our challenge.”
He suggested the CDC and others had put priorities on supplying other places.
But he and Smith both seemed to question the numbers cited in the New York Times. Smith said he had “no evidence” it’s worse here than many other places.
This was the New York Times’ source for its ranking that put Arkansas 47th per capita in testing.