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Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor defends targeted response, state officials discuss ADC response



LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The total number of cases of COVID-19 has moved up to 704 on Friday according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

There were no new deaths announced Friday, keeping the total in Arkansas at 12.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, gave an update Thursday afternoon on the state’s response to COVID-19.

State officials announced Thursday afternoon that there were 643 cases of the virus in the state, with 12 deaths total.

The two deaths announced Thursday, one was aged 65 and older and one was between the ages of 19 and 64. One of the deaths reported was a Briarwood nursing home resident. That makes a total of two nursing home deaths due to the coronavirus.

Of the total deaths, eight people were 65 or older and four have been adults in the 19 to 64 age range.

Of the 643 cases, 20 are children, 183 are 65 years old or older, and 440 are aged 19 to 64.

Among the 643 cases are 91 healthcare workers. Of those, 10 are physicians, 26 are nurses, four are certified nursing assistants, and the others are either a combination of licensed and unlicensed workers or not yet known.

There are also 51 nursing home residents and 24 staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Of the cases announced Thursday, 66 are in the hospital and 23 are on ventilators.

In the news conference, Governor Asa Hutchinson defended using a targeted response instead of a shelter-in-place order.

During the news conference, the governor showed a list of the actions he has taken, which includes closing schools, restaurants and bars, state park lodging, casinos, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, movie theaters, as well as direct state employees to work from home if they can.

Governor Hutchinson also said some of the measures were tougher than other states.

The governor then showed a graph of projected cases versus the number of actual cases. The governor said the projection of cases for mid-April was 3,500 cases. The governor also said the current cases were more than 400 less than what was projected.

Governor Hutchinson said shelter in place orders were not helpful and gives an unrealistic expectation. He said most stay at home orders exempts manufacturing, banks, laundromats, work from home products, legal, accounting and insurance industries.

Hutchinson also mentioned California’s order, which exempts grocery stores, farmer’s markets, convience stores and has led to some confusion. Hutchinson says millions still go to work in California.

Hutchinson said if a stay at home order was put in place, over 700,000 Arkansans would still go to work the next day because of essential business.

Governor Hutchinson says state officials are trying to make good judgments based on good scientific data.

“If we need to do more, we will,” said Governor Hutchinson.

Wendy Kelley, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, also discussed measures put in place to protect the inmates and how Arkansas Correction Industries are making cloth masks.

Two inmates have been tested for the virus, but according to Kelley, no inmate has tested positive for the virus.

An ADC employee did test positive for the virus, but Kelley said that the person did not have direct contact with any inmates.

Kelley said ADC has stopped in-person visitation, but have lowered telephone, video visitation and email rates to help.

Kelley also announced that parole and probation fees were waived for April.

According to Kelley, the Arkansas Correctional Industries have made 1,000 masks, and should be able to make up to 80,000 masks.

She said they took a cloth mask from the infirmary and made it based on that, except a larger size.

Kelley said there is an order for 20,000 masks and their medical provider has ordered 5,000 masks.

Kelley said she will consult the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management on where the other masks should go.

To watch the full press conference, see the video above.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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