The number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas has risen to 12, up from nine as of Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday (March 14). The three new cases are healthcare workers at Jefferson Regional Medical Center and related to the original case discovered in Pine Bluff.
UPDATE: The Arkansas Department of Health web site raised the number of confirmed cases to 16 on Sunday morning (March 15). There are 30 people under investigation and 237 people being monitored in state.
Gov. Hutchinson said during Saturday’s press conference that he has authorized the Arkansas National Guard to be activated to help with logistics, call center support, transportation, EMT support and other needs.
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 100 locations internationally, including in the United States.
News reports as of Saturday afternoon indicated more than 50 U.S. deaths and more than 2,000 confirmed cases. The reports show that 25 of the deaths are connected with the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. Globally, there are more than 153,000 cases and almost 6,000 deaths.
Following are other items noted during Hutchinson’s press conference:
• The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management is activated to Level 1. The agency’s call center is fully operational and the joint information center is sharing information with emergency management crews in the counties.
• Arkansas officials are concerned about the lack of testing and are certain there are other positive cases in Arkansas.
• The Arkansas Department of Health is working to acquire a new testing machine in the next week to boost testing capacity from 20 a day to 160 a day. The equipment will also help lab officials get test results back in six hours rather than several days.
• Officials are concerned with the safety of healthcare workers and are asking people to not go to an emergency room or clinic if they think they have symptoms. If there is a spike in the number of COVID-19 patients, it will tax the system, especially if it results in infections among more health care workers.
• Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe encouraged hospitals to develop methods to keep possible COVID-19 patients out of the general population. One example he cited is using a tent in a parking lot to screen possible patients before they enter a facility.