Three more presumptive coronavirus patients have been identified in Arkansas since yesterday.
During a press conference held Friday, March 13, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the three cases were all located in central Arkansas. Two of the patients are believed to have contracted COVID-19 while traveling out-of-state, but the third patient’s contraction is currently unknown.
This patient’s case is the most concern, according to Dr. Nate Smith, the state’s chief medical officer. This patient has no reported linkages to the other Arkansas coronavirus patients or out-of-state contacts, and the unknown origin of this patient’s virus indicates that it was contracted through community transmission. While Smith noted that the coronavirus outbreak is a “dynamic” situation, he said, “At this time, we don’t have community transmission outside of this area.”
Officials say that the community transmission occurred in Little Rock. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced the case of COVID-19 community transmission earlier on Friday in a separate news conference.
Hutchinson says that he is advising that all large gatherings in Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Grant counties be canceled. Scott previously announced that all large Little Rock events should be canceled.
State officials have requested more resources to combat the virus, and Hutchinson has authorized 10 more lab positions within the Department of Health to be filled immediately. The state has also ordered 28,000 M95 respirators and 66,000 surgical masks.
“That has been on order and it should be here next week. It’s not a shortage of that. It’s a matter of allocating it out to our healthcare community,” he said.
Call centers have reportedly been backed up, with Hutchinson saying that there is an 800 call backlog. To solve this, he says that he has asked the Department of Human Services to move call center employees to help man the phones.
According to Smith, approximately 70 individuals have been tested for coronavirus by the state so far. This does not include those tested by private labs.
When asked if insurance would cover the COVID-19 tests, Hutchinson said the testing cost would not be an issue. “The simple message to the public is: Don’t worry about the cost of the test,” he said.
It is currently unclear what decision will be made in regards to coronavirus testing and treatment costs.
According to Medicare.gov, Medicare Part B covers the coronavirus test when a patient’s doctor or health care provider orders it. The site notes that patients must have received the test on or after Feb. 4, 2020 for this to apply. In addition, providers will be required to wait after April 1, 2020 to be able to submit a Medicare claim.