As of March 3, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had not yet been detected in Arkansas, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported multiple other states had announced their first positive tests for COVID-19. CDC issued a warning that what is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what has been seen abroad in countries where COVID-19 has spread, causing school and factory closings, travel restrictions and a broad range of business disruptions.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, speaking at a national press teleconference March 3, said that while the nation continues to take an aggressive national posture of containment, “we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the United States. The goal of the measures we have taken to date are to slow the introduction and impact of this disease in the United States. But, at some point, we are likely to see community spread in the United States or other countries and this will trigger a change in our response strategy. This will require the effort of all levels of government, the public health system and our communities as we face these challenges together.”
Messonnier said as more areas see community spread, people who catch the virus from contact with others rather than people who became infected while on foreign travel, local communities may start employing tools that encourage social distancing.
“The goal of social distancing is to limit exposure by reducing face-to-face contact and preventing spread among people in community settings,” she said. “What these actions look like at the community level will vary depending on local conditions. What is appropriate for one community seeing local transmission won’t necessarily be appropriate for a community where no local transmission has occurred. People, communities, local and state governments should begin thinking about what this might look like for them and local action that might work best in their community to blunt the impact of this virus.”
Large technology firms including Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are limiting travel by employees and cancelling conferences in preparation for a possible pandemic. However, Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, said there are no current indications that conventions in Arkansas are being cancelled. And people don’t seem to be avoiding crowds or eating out.
“Every restaurant I’ve been in is as busy as ever,” Zook said. “People have to eat. This is already having an impact on the economy, but the best thing people can do is not panic and take all steps they can to minimize the effects of it. People are not holing up yet. We all have to use common sense and use good health practices, and we will find our way through it.”