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Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor Hutchinson announces 2.2% merit pay increase for state employees

Regional News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon he is authorizing a 2.2% merit pay increase for state employees.

The governor also announced Tuesday the state will end the fiscal year $360 million ahead of where officials thought the state would be.

Hutchinson said $121 million has been restored to K-12 schools and $42.4 has been restored to higher education.

The revenue forecast will be changed to $5.624 billion, according to Hutchinson.

Gov. Hutchinson said the Medicaid trust fund will be restored $72.2 million and will bring the balance to $255 million.

The governor said there is $225 million in unallocated reserves, which will stay in place until the general assembly decides what to do with it in the next meeting.

According to Hutchinson, the state has $152 million in the long-term reserve fund.

Hutchinson said the merit pay increases for state employees was able to be given because state officials could see the full financial picture.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 20,777 total COVID-19 cases and 270 deaths in Arkansas, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson. That is an increase of 520 cases and five deaths from Monday.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said of the 520 new cases, at least 18 of the cases are from correctional facilities and 502 are from communities.

The governor said the top counties with new cases are Washington County (152), Pulaski County (118), Benton County (33), Faulkner County (23) and Yell County (21). All other counties had fewer than 20 new cases, according to Hutchinson.

Dr. Smith said they are doing targeted testing in Washington County.

State officials say Benton County has seen a decrease in cases.

According to Dr. Smith, 44% of the cases in Pulaski County are in Little Rock and 30% are in Wrightsville. Dr. Smith says he believes the Wrightsville cases are in the prison unit.

Dr. Smith said there are 5,976 active cases of the virus in Arkansas.

State officials say 290 people are hospitalized in Arkansas due to the coronavirus as of Tuesday. That’s a decrease of 10 from Monday.

Dr. Smith said 67 people are on ventilators in Arkansas, which is an increase of four from Monday.

State officials say 4,048 tests were done Monday.

Governor Hutchinson said 171,944 tests have been completed so far in June. State officials say there will be one more day of test results released for June.

Dr. Smith said most long-term care facilities in the state have been tested. Smith said there are a few that haven’t been tested yet.

Dr. Smith said more than 40,000 nursing home residents and staff have been tested in the month of June.

Smith said there are now two CDC teams in Arkansas. One of the teams is working in northwest Arkansas and preparing a report. The other team joined this week and is working to better describe the transmission of coronavirus in nursing homes.

Dr. Smith said there are some large venue plans submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health and have been approved for July 4.

Smith said it is important to wear a mask when going to a large venue, and that the mask covers the mouth and nose. Smith explained the cloth masks are supposed to catch the respiratory droplets from the breath.

The governor also spoke about the resignation of Department of Correction Secretary Wendy Kelley, saying she is in a challenging time in the personal side of her life. Hutchinson said he appreciates Kelley’s service to the State of Arkansas. Gov. Hutchinson said Kelley will stay on through July 30 and he will make an announcement later next week on the succession.

You can watch the full news conference above.

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