COVID-19 cases up 55%; positive tests found in three nursing homes

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,229 views 

The number of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in Arkansas rose 55% between Thursday and Friday (March 20) with nursing homes in Northwest and Central Arkansas being locations for some of the latest positive tests, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

COVID-19 cases rose from 62 on Thursday to 96 on Friday, with 203 persons under investigation and 548 people being monitored because of a possible risk. As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 16,000 U.S. cases and around 210 deaths. Globally, there were more than 263,000 cases and more than 11,100 deaths.

As to the nursing homes, cases were found in the Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. There were 13 cases at Briarwood.

The ADH issued this statement Friday afternoon: “The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is working closely with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Arkansas Healthcare Association to address cases of COVID-19 in three nursing homes across the state. The nursing homes affected are Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock.

“Currently, we know of one patient that has tested positive for COVID-19 at both Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab and The Villages of General Baptist West. Thirteen cases, including patients and staff, have tested positive at Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. ADH is currently screening all other staff and residents for COVID-19 at Briarwood, and ADH staff are now onsite at Briarwood.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the Pine Bluff nursing home patient may have been exposed to the virus through a doctor who treated the first person detected with COVID-19 in Arkansas. Patients in the other nursing homes could have been exposed to staff or visitors bringing in the infection, Smith said, adding that the nursing homes are actively working to segregate nursing home patients and staff who test positive.

Of the 96 cases in Arkansas, Smith said eight are children, 26 are ages 65 and older, and 62 are between 18 and 65. He also said there are “slightly” more women than men who are infected, with 71% of the cases being white an 17% African American.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is releasing $30 million from a Revenue Stabilization Fund to help buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical facilities around the state. The money will eventually be repaid to the state, Hutchinson said.

“It will take time to make that procurement, but that is in the works,” he said.

The governor also said there is “no intent to further restrict businesses in Arkansas” or manufacturing capacity. On Thursday, the governor issued several directives related to businesses, including closing bars and restaurants for dine-in service, but can be open for takeout and delivery, and closing indoor venues such as gyms.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also announced at the press conference that she is releasing $3 million from a settlement fund to add to the $4 million previously set aside by Gov. Hutchinson to support small businesses. On Wednesday, the governor announced $4 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund – created to provide cash incentives for businesses expanding or locating operations in Arkansas – to support “bridge loans” to small businesses that need help making payroll and pay other essential costs. The loans can be up to $250,000.

Rutledge said the $3 million comes from lawsuit settlements and is not taxpayer funds.