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Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor announces 381 cases in the state, gives projections on future cases and directive in place

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.-  On Friday, Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Department of Health, announced there were 381 cases of the coronavirus in the state as of the time of the press conference. 

Of those cases, Dr. Smith announced 48 people were hospitalized, and 17 are currently on ventilators.

Fifteen children, 124 adults 65 and older, and 242 adults aged 19-64 have the coronavirus, according to Smith.

Governor Hutchinson also spoke about the projected number of hospitalizations, which models widely vary, the numbers range from 2,000 to 15,000 people in the hospital. 

Projections from the Arkansas Department of Health show there could be 2,000 positive cases by the first week in April, then peak at 3,500 a few weeks later.

The governor said his goal is to beat the projections.

The governor also said it was his job to plan for the worst-case scenario. 

According to the different models, the peak could be from April 25 through June 1.

The governor has enacted 10 National Guardsmen to help the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Health expand hospital beds in Arkansas.

The state has placed an order for 500 ventilators. Hutchinson warned that the Department of Defense could stop the order or other states could get them if they need them. 

The governor asked Arkansans to follow the directives from ADH. 

The guideline on social gatherings being 10 people or fewer is now a directive, which carries as law. 

Places of worship are exempt from the directive, but Governor Hutchinson said they were strongly guided to follow. 

Col. Bill Bryant with Arkansas State Police said law enforcement agencies will seek voluntary compliance, but will enforce if need be. 

The governor said an example was there was a concern expressed by a caller who said there was an event planned with 500 or more people. According to the governor, the Department of Health called the organizers and the event was re-organized to be held virtually with smaller groups of 10 or less coming together. 

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced an additional $1 million would be donated to UAMS and other hospitals to ensure they have enough personal protective equipment. The $1 million is coming from the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund. 

The attorney general says her office has gotten about 500 price gouging complaints, and have 25 open investigations. 

One of the price gouging investigations is a complaint from UAMS that when the hospital tried to buy masks, and the provider was trying to charge $20 a mask. Rutledge also said there were investigations of convenience stores upping the price of toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

Rutledge said the penalty for price gouging is up to $10,000 per item and possibly a criminal conviction.

The governor announced the target date for schools to re-open is still April 17, but said online education continues regardless.

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

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