The governor’s daily coronavirus report included news of two more deaths, to 10 in the state, and covered state park closures and the crush of unemployment applications.
Overnight camping in state parks will be ended and parking limits also will be imposed, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. He said he’d joined several legislators and others in recommending to the Interior secretary that the Buffalo River National Park be closed until the emergency is over. The governor said 60 percent of the visitors at the national park Tuesday were from out of state.
“If we’re going to try to limit out of state visitors and the spread of COVID-19, we need to take this step,” Hutchinson said.
Stacy Hurst, who oversees parks and tourism, said the move to day-use only would begin Friday and is consistent with decisions made in 28 other states. Parking will be allowed only on-site and approved lots. Some parks can close gates when parking lots are full and issue citations for overflow parking on highways and streets. Some problem trails will be closed including Cedar Falls at Petit Jean and the east and west summit trails at Pinnacle Mountain. Parks rangers will disperse gatherings, she said.
The coronavirus case count this afternoon rose by 61, to 584, with 56 hospitalized and 25 on ventilators. It’s been confined in 54 of the 75 counties.
Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said the state continued to be crushed by unemployment applications but also said it was not yet in receipt of federal guidance for handling the new benefits available to gig economy and similar workers who’ll qualify. He urged those seeking that to wait to make a claim or to understand why on-line claims are kicked back for now.
Health Department Director Nate Smith said five more health care workers had tested positive and four more nursing home residents had tested positive — two in Pine Bluff and two in White Hall. The two deaths who died were older than 65, but not identified further.
Hutchinson also said:
- He’d spoken today with Mike Pence, who’d given him assurance that the state would receive ventilators if it needed them.
- There’s a partnership with Walmart and Quest Laboratories for a drive-through testing center in Bentonville for first responders with symptoms. If screening indicates a test is advised, they’ll be tested there. Only a handful of testing sites have been opened on retail store parking lots as announced some days ago by Donald Trump.
- He’s still not ready to issue a stay-home order, though he said that message had been sent in a variety of ways. He said people are acting responsibly.
Smith said he thought the legislature had met in a laudable way and he didn’t think it created risks. But he said legislators might consider self-isolation in light of Rep. Reginald Murdock testing positive. He said he thought procedures could allow the legislature to meet April 8.
He said a doctor can have a “compelling” reason to ask for a test of someone without symptoms in response for a question of how Murdock managed to be tested while so many are complaining about the difficulty of being tested.