Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily coronavirus briefing included news of a May 11 return of dental services, a week earlier than planned.
He also announced he’d signed an executive order to help oil and gas producers in South Arkansas. The state is waiving annual well fees and production fees.
The daily count
The total rose 72 from the same time yesterday, to 3,568, with 20 of those from the federal prison in Forrest City. Hospitalizations dropped from 89 to 69, a “very significant drop,” Hutchinson said. There were two more deaths, to a total of 85. One was a prison inmate, the sixth from Cummins, and one was a nursing home death, for a total of 33. 301 federal inmates have tested positive and not all of those are included in the state total. It was noted that the majority of those infected are in younger age groups, though the danger is highest for older people.
Hutchinson emphasized charts that showed Arkansas low among Southern and neighboring states in cases per capita. He showed we are also on the low end of testing, but not the very lowest. He said the state had received a promise for additional testing materials from the federal government, sufficient for 90,000 tests in May. He said he hoped the state could perform 60,000 tests that month.
Health Director Nate Smith said non-urgent dental treatment will be allowed to resume May 11, a week earlier than originally planned. The dentists’ lobby persuaded the state that protective gear supplies were sufficient and protective protocols were planned by most dentists.
The Health Department and Board of Dental Examiners will cooperate on unannounced visits to monitor compliance.
Economic recovery task force
The chair of the task force, Steuart Walton, said “important steps” had been taken. A website will be online Friday with information, including health guidelines, for employers and employees, he said. He said businesses must lead by example in following health guidelines.
He said the guidelines won’t “suit every business.” They are not perfect, he said. But he said businesses will “have to step up to the plate and show us what good looks like.”
In other matters, the governor said he’d take his daily show Thursday to Texarkana, which has developed as something of a hot spot for cases, along with Crittenden County and the Jonesboro area.