No additional positive coronavirus cases have been reported in Arkansas since yesterday’s press conference. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state officials gathered in West Memphis at Arkansas State University-Mid South to provide updates while meeting with leaders in northeastern Arkansas.
There are currently 22 positive coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, cases in Arkansas. In the United States, there have been 5,145 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the worldwide total of confirmed cases is 189,386.
“Today, for the first time in a week, we have had no reported positive cases,” Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said. However, he expects the number to rise as testing expands throughout he state, noting that the state wants to find more cases.
Hutchinson said that while there have been no reported coronavirus cases in eastern Arkansas, officials are not confident that coronavirus has not affected the region already because of the lack of testing. There are three testing methods for coronavirus in Arkansas now: through the Arkansas Department of Health; through UAMS, which is developing its own testing capacity; and through commercial labs. According to Hutchinson, testing is “expanding rapidly” and he expects to see a greater volume and speed for the tests this week.
Both Hutchinson and Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston touched on the economic impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had in Arkansas. Hutchinson acknowledged that commerce has been reduced in the state “to a certain extent” but assured viewers that supply chain lines continued to operate and manufacturing continued to function in the state.
In addition, he said food supplies and gas supplies would not cease, eliminating the need for mass buying. “We need to eliminate panic buying,” Hutchinson said.
Preston addressed potential lay-offs due to coronavirus, saying that the state wanted to ease the transition to ensure Arkansans would not have a gap between their paychecks. Individuals applying for unemployment will not be required to report in-person but will be able to apply online or call.
Businesses will also have assistance packages, and Preston said these will be unveiled at a later date.
Hutchinson earlier directed all casinos in Arkansas to cease operations for two weeks, a move he said would likely have a deep impact in eastern Arkansas. Southland Racing Casino, located in West Memphis, employs approximately 900 hourly works, according to Hutchinson. However, he said the decision was “necessary” as a public health measure.
While Hutchinson officially declared a public health emergency on March 11, Smith said the process for combating coronavirus is only beginning in Arkansas. “COVID-19 is an invisible storm, and we’re at the beginning of this storm,” he said.