Governor Hutchinson’s coronavirus briefing today included his response to criticism in a CDC report of the state’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Politico reported on the CDC findings here. A team that probed an outbreak in Northwest Arkansas found inconsistent messaging had contributed to the outbreak and that minorities suffered the most.
Hutchinson said he’d seen the report. He said the Health Department had worked with the CDC and had a working group to respond to its recommendations. But he said the report in Politico was misleading. He said it implied the CDC made some of the findings, when some of the reporting was of quotes from people in a focus group of minority community members. “This is feedback from the community. And that’s very important to hear. But when you have language barriers it’s an additional challenge to overcome,” Hutchinson said.
Health Director Nate Smith said, “Our message has been consistent and coherent.” But he said sometimes circumstances change rapidly and with language barriers, it’s not surprising that confusion sometimes arises.
Hutchinson was asked why the CDC team didn’t go into poultry plants in Northwest Arkansas. Hutchison said the team defined its own mission. But he also suggested there were more problems in the community than in poultry plants. Smith said OSHA is the agency more often looking at conditions in factories and the CDC communicated with that agency.
Hutchinson again defended the state’s “strategy” on coping with the virus. He said it was being implemented “very vigorously” by the Department of Health. But he also said individual responsibility was important. He still has no plans to mandate masking or other measures. He applauded members of Congress for asking the Trump administration to support increased testing. To date, it has been deficient. He said the state was also investing more in testing machinery.
Hutchinson promised stronger enforcement of state orders, such as those on bars and restaurants. He said the Health Department has 1,000 complaints pending, which take a while to work through. He also praised cities that have adopted an ordinance he’s approved that theoretically can “require” masks, but the ordinance carries no enforcement mechanism.
Daily coronavirus count
Arkansas confirmed 794 more cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, rising from 28,939 to 29,733. Eight more deaths to 331. Hospitalizations rose by 6 to 445. 81 are on ventilators.
Top counties in new cases in the last 24 hours: Pulaski, 111; Washington, 68; Sebastian, 53; Pope, 41; Johnson, 37; Benton, 36; Craighead, 29, and Faulkner, 24.
Total tests in 24 hours: 6,553. The seven-day rolling average is above 10 percent. That’s a warning level by the CDC standard and double the rate that the WHO says should be concerning.
Much talk about ramping up contract tracing (hiring is underway by one of two new private contractors) and improving testing, but not much concrete except an expressed desire to do better.