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Arkansas ranks in top 10 in slowest COVID-19 growth

Posted on April 13, 2020

By Siandhara Bonnet
El Dorado News-Times

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sec.of Health Dr. Nate Smith his stamp of approval for Arkansas’ targeted response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Hutchinson and Smith announced they spoke with Fauci, who looked at COVID-19 related data from Arkansas, during the daily press briefing Friday.

“I really wanted to get his guidance, if he saw we should be doing something more,” Hutchinson said. “He said what you’re doing is right, what you’re doing is good, what you’re accomplishing is a model. It doesn’t mean it’s a model for everybody, but it’s a model for Arkansas.”

Smith said Fauci also understood that Arkansas and other rural states will have a slower process for dealing with the virus since there’s a lower population density, so it may take longer to reach the peak amount of cases.

In response to a reporter’s question, Hutchinson said Fauci did not mention putting a stay at home or shelter in place directive.

“This is a great responsibility that I have and I want to make good decisions,” Hutchinson said. “(The purpose of the conversation) was to guide us, to add one more link in our system of advice here in the state and our decision making process. It was good to be affirmed in it but also to pick his brain a little bit.”

Smith also discussed the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on the geographic differences in COVID-19 cases, deaths and incidence from Feb. 12 to April 7.

According to the early release report Friday, Arkansas has one of the slowest cumulative incidence for April 7 with 32.9 per 100,000 per capita, and one of the slowest absolute change in cumulative incidence from March 31-April 7 with 14.4 per 100,000 per capita.

For the absolute change in cumulative incidence, the state ranked No. 8, just behind Kentucky and Hawaii, which tied for 5th with 12.5 per 100,000, and West Virginia at 13.8. Arkansas is followed by North Dakota, which had 14.6 per 100,000 as its absolute change in cumulative incidence.

“Often times our state is in the top whatever of bad things, but now we’re in the top 10 of slow growth of COVID-19,” Smith said.

Hutchinson also noted the state is currently under the number of projected cases by April 10. According to the graph made by the Arkansas Department of Health, it was projected Arkansas would have about 3,500 cases of COVID-19 by now. However, as of briefing time Friday, the state had 1,171 cumulative cases, which is about 2,300 under the projected number.

Smith said there are only 836 active cases, which is the total number of cases minus those who have recovered or died. He said 86 patients are currently hospitalized, which is 13 more than Thursday, with 23 newly admitted and 10 who left the hospital.

There are 33 on ventilators and a total of 23 deaths, an increase of two for both. Smith said one death was someone who was younger than 65 and the other was older than 65.

He said when someone with COVID-19, the death is attributed to the virus whether it was the sole cause of death, exacerbated an underlying condition or contributed to the person’s death.

Hutchinson also announced the first COVID-19 related death of a state employee, Richard Richardson, who was a substance abuse counselor for Arkansas Community Corrections and a four-year starter at nose guard for the University of Arkansas in the 1980s.

Smith also said 79 cases are nursing home residents and 168 are health care workers, 46 of which have recovered. There are a total of 312 recoveries in the state, which is 59 more than Thursday.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health website, there were 33 cases in those 17 and younger, 75 in those 18-24, 351 in those 25-44, 428 in those 45-64 and 284 in those 65 and older.

Of the total cases, 296 were black, 749 white, four American Indian, 17 Asian, two Pacific Islander, three multiracial, 25 other and 75 “missing.”

He also said there were a total of 1,348 reports done for testing Thursday, which is the largest daily number of reports seen in Arkansas yet. Smith said 1,147 were from commercial labs, 118 were from the ADH public health lab and 83 were from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences lab, 40 of which were from mobile testing in Texarkana.

Hutchinson and Smith also addressed questions regarding restriction on elective surgeries, specifically abortions.

Smith said there was a cease and desist directive issued for an abortion clinic following an investigation by the ADH, which found residents from other states visiting the clinic to receive care. He said the clinic expressed it did not intend to stop practice despite a directive Smith issued April 3 advising all health care facilities, including ambulatory surgery centers and abortion facilities, to cease elective surgeries in order to “preserve staff, personal protective equipment (PPE), and patient care supplies; ensure staff and patient safety; and expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Hutchinson said there will not be a briefing today or Sunday, but he will continue daily briefings Monday.

Local numbers

According to the ADH, Union County has 18 positive cases of COVID-19, 165 negative tests and four recoveries