The coronavirus count in Arkansas rose to 1,094 today, 71 new cases, with the confirmed death count rising by three, to 21. 69 counties now have cases. (Actually, the death count increase was noted in state totals AFTER the briefing, as was a rise in cases to 1,119.)

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson displayed a chart that seemed to show a decline in case growth in some hot spots, such as Cleburne County, and also a chart showing Louisiana with a low hospitalization rate against other “SEC” states. But he termed the continuing growth as “moderate,” especially compared with other states.

This shows the state’s approach to social distancing is working, he said. He also showed this chart on hospitalization use against past projections.

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Health Director Nate Smith said the hospitalization rate is holding fairly steady. He also displayed this account of recoveries.

Today’s special speakers, a feature of these briefings, included Dr. Richard Smith, a psychiatrist from UAMS, who talked about mental health. It is not the time to stop treatment for those who are getting help for depression or substance abuse. He urged people to reach out for help and also, for all, to take the occasional deep breath. Another official mentioned an open helpline that can direct people to mental health providers.

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During Q&A, the governor was pressed again on continuing abortion services in Arkansas.

He said the Health Department had inspected Little Rock Family Planning Sevices and a report was in process. He said he expected all clinics, not just abortion clinics, to postpone elective procedures.

Smith said a significant portion of the patients at Family Planning had come from surrounding states and the state had advised them to discourage that.

Do residents still have access to abortion? Smith answered by saying all “elective” procedures should be postponed. But the judgment on what is done should be made by the provider, he said.

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He also was asked about no-excuse voting, a proposal killed in Joint Budget this morning. He said “we don’t know” if there will be an emergency in November. If it continues, he’d be open to waiving the rules to allow no-excuse voting, which is certainly important in case of a virus threat

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The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping all aspects of life in Arkansas. We're interested in hearing from doctors, nurses and other health care workers; from patients and their families; from people in longterm care facilities and their families; from parents and students affected by the crisis; from people who have lost their job; from people with knowledge of workplaces or communities that aren't taking appropriate measures to slow the spread of the disease; and more.

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