By the governor’s count, the total number of coronavirus cases at midday today was put at 3,017, up 76 from the same time yesterday, including 16 from Cummins prison. Hospitalizations are up two, to 109, and deaths rose by one to 50.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson was upbeat about the progress of the virus in the state. He said the number of new cases daily had dropped in recent days (not counting Cummins prison cases) and the state had met a goal of doing 1,500 tests on both Friday and Saturday. He also said the state was experiencing a drop in people going to emergency rooms or doctors’ offices with COVID-like symptoms.
He acknowledged the state hadn’t met a suggested decline in documented cases for 14 days, but he said there was flexibility in that target. He also said the state was doing well on a drop in the percentage of positive tests — only a bit more than 1 percent in 1,500 tests on Saturday.
The best indicators for Arkansas, he said, are “more than adequate” hospital bed space and machinery and a “robust” testing program for health care workers.
Going by White House criteria for returning to work, it is “looking positive in trends and trajectory in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.
Health Director Nate Smith gave these cumulative figures on positive tests: 316 health workers, 203 in nursing homes and 115 nursing home staff. At Cummins, 856 positive cases among inmates have been recorded, with 32 tests pending. Fifty staff members have tested positive, with about 15 more tests to come. Six inmates are hospitalized.
Concerns about disruptions in meat supply? Yes, said the governor. Arkansas has 60 food processing plants. The health of workers is critical. He said producers had “gone the extra mile” in emphasizing health in the plants. “We haven’t had any go down in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. He said he didn’t expect the disruptions other states have experienced. If infected workers appear, the plants will be cleaned and reopened, he said. Smith said the state could do “contact investigations” fairly quickly.
Have elective surgeries begun? Smith said he didn’t yet have much to report. He said the state knew not every facility would be equally prepared to resume work today. He said the guidelines were designed to limit procedures to safe ones and it wasn’t an easy threshold to meet.
Donation of plasma with antibodies for the treatment of the sick? Its use is continuing and there have been “positive results on a case by case basis,” Smith said. He didn’t have numbers yet on the number of donations and the number of times it has been used.
The briefing was held at noon today, rather than the usual 1:30 p.m. because Donald Trump has scheduled a call with governors at 1 p.m.