The Arkansas Department of Health on Oct. 9 provided a list of “options for consideration” to Governor Hutchinson to consider to stop the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Increase the frequency of the governor’s briefings.
  • Change the message to include avoiding groups greater than 10 people.
  • Reduce the size of gatherings allowed at indoor/outdoor venues
  • Encourage local government enforcement of the mask mandate.
  • Allow local government to implement curfews based on community data.
  • Implement 28-day restrictions that would limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people, resume working remotely, move to virtual education, close restaurants and bars to onsite dining and impose restrictions on other venues.

A note at the bottom of the list said it should not be considered “the position or views of the agency or the Governor.”

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The White House report on Arkansas issued Oct. 25, which ranked Arkansas at 4th in the nation for deaths per 100,000 people and 13th in infection rate, also had recommendations, especially for Craighead County, which has been in the red zone for weeks and where infections are rising: That it “incentivize” residents of the county to “come forward to get tested to significantly reduce viral spread and cases within a few weeks.”

The White House report says that the state’s strategy for containing the virus is not working. Among the recommendations (see the full report here):

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  • Need a different strategy for reducing transmission; what worked in the summer is not working in the fall with cooler weather and considering COVID fatigue. Keep mask requirements in place and promote physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private and ensuring flu immunizations.
  • Ensure retail establishments are complying with directives.
  • Work with communities to limit large and small social gatherings; current transmissions are linked to home gatherings.

Arkansas had 219 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, according to the report. The number of people testing positive — between 5 and 7.9 percent — compared to tests performed puts us at 22nd highest.

The report, released to the press today by the Arkansas Department of Health, also addressed the hospitalization situation in Arkansas. It said the daily average of patients admitted to hospitals between Oct. 17-23 was 81 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 137 suspected COVID-19 cases.

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“An average of 90% of hospitals reported either new confirmed or suspected COVID patients each day during this period; therefore, this may be an underestimate of the actual number of COVID-related hospitalizations. Underreporting may lead to a slower allocation of critical supplies.”

Ten percent of hospitals reported having enough masks and gowns for only 4 to 6 days; 50 percent reported enough PPE for 31 days or more.

The governor’s response to the ADH list of options was to extend the state’s health emergency status for an additional 60 days. He rejected new limits on business, saying “there’s not really an option to go back on our opening of businesses.”