Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor announces 1,023 cases in the state, officials discuss unemployment


LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced there were 1,023 cases of the coronavirus in the state as of Wednesday afternoon.

That is an increase of 77 cases since Tuesday.

No new deaths were announced Wednesday. The total number of deaths in Arkansas due to complications from the coronavirus is 18.

Of the 18 deaths, four were ages 19-64 and 14 were 65 or older. Eight of the people who died were from central Arkansas, six were from northeast Arkansas, three were from northwest Arkansas and one was from southeast Arkansas. Four of the people who died due to complications from the coronavirus were African American while 14 were white.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said that 814 test reports were completed Tuesday. According to Smith, 574 were from commercial labs and 134 were from the ADH lab. Dr. Smith said the overall positivity rate from Tuesday’s tests was 6.6 percent.

Franklin County was added to the list of counties with cases on Wednesday.

Of the 1,023 cases, 24 are children, 69 are 18-24 years old, 310 are 25-44 years old, 386 are 45-64 and 252 are aged 65 and older.

Fifteen of the cases are pregnant women, according to Smith.

Seventy-six people are in the hospital.

Thirty people are on a ventilator.

Sixty-eight of the cases are in nursing homes.

According to Dr. Smith, 147 of the cases are healthcare workers, which includes 16 physicians, 47 nurses and 22 certified nursing assistants.

Dr. Smith said Wednesday, while there were no new cases at the Federal Correctional Institute in Forrest City, there were new individuals showing symptoms this morning.

Dr. Smith mentioned 208 people have recovered, which was 56 more than Tuesday.

Dr. Smith also mentioned that it has been four weeks since the first case of the coronavirus was announced in Arkansas. Smith encouraged Arkansans to think about their emotional health, focus on self-care and check on others.

Governor Hutchinson announced Wednesday that he is allocating another $1 million from the quick action closing fund. Hutchinson said $3 million he previously allocated had already been distributed. Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said they have given out 138 loans to small businesses representing 47 counties. Preston encouraged other small businesses to contact their banker about the SBA loans, which are is a zero percent interest loan with no payments up to 12 months for up to $25,000, according to Preston. The goal of these loans, according to Preston, is so the businesses can maintain a level of jobs.

Preston also talked Wednesday afternoon about unemployment, saying there were currently around 110,000 applications filed and there likely will be 150,000 unemployment claims by the end of the week. The Secretary of Commerce said 80 people who were from Commerce and the division of workforce services were also handling calls for unemployment.

Preston said the number of calls for unemployment have dropped week by week.

Preston announced the first pandemic unemployment checks came out Tuesday.

Preston asked for patience from the pandemic unemployment assistance for the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers as they will have to build a whole new system. Preston said his department received federal guidance Sunday night that they will need to be a whole new system to process the claims. He said every state currently has similar issues. Preston said it would be a time frame of three weeks to build the new system, but they would be able to backdate payments.

When asked if the directive of elective surgeries included abortions, the governor asked the order was similar, almost identical to one filed in Texas. Governor Hutchinson said Arkansas’s order came through the Arkansas Department of Health. According to the order, all elective surgeries should be postponed if it can be. Hutchinson said an abortion clinic is included, but that is currently under investigation. Hutchinson and Dr. Smith both said there was a concern about people from out of state coming into the facility.

To watch the full news conference, click here.

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