Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas has risen from 22 to 33 people from Tuesday to Wednesday (March 18). By nightfall, the number had risen to 37.
The new confirmed coronavirus cases stretch from central Arkansas to Washington County in Northwest Arkansas and Bradley, Cleveland, Desha and Lincoln counties in southeast Arkansas. Faulkner County also has a confirmed case for the first time. The confirmed cases are largely related to travel, both domestic and international.
Hutchinson said that with Spring Break coming up next week, he strongly advised Arkansans to reduce the risk by not traveling to other states.
“Everyone needs to re-think the risk of travel,” Hutchinson said.
In addition to the 11 new cases, state health officials revealed the number of negative cases from testing which shows that 236 people have been shown to not have the coronavirus. Fifty-nine persons are under investigation and 377 persons are being monitored by the state.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the ongoing pandemic outbreak of respiratory disease is caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 150 locations internationally, including in the United States.
While testing capacity is increasing, the state is still not keeping up with all of the demand needed. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said sample test kits are still in limited supply, but he and a consortium of health care groups are working on solutions.
Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health, said new instrumentation on order will help increase the turnaround of results. Smith said that the Arkansas Public Health Laboratory processed 60 tests on Tuesday. Between UAMS and the Department of Health, there is a plan to increase capacity to as many as 550 tests per day as reported previously by Talk Business & Politics.
Securing protective equipment and gear for health care workers continues to be a challenge. Patterson said that the burn rate for going through personal protective equipment can jump 400-500% on one coronavirus patient.
Hutchinson said the state’s hospitals and health care organizations are “being responsible” on this use, but he needs “federal guidance” with respect to available beds, equipment and other issues related to responding to the pandemic.