COVID-19 has officially arrived in Northeast Arkansas’ largest city as the number of reported cases in the state has doubled in just one day’s time. The Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed that a person in Jonesboro has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and another person has tested positive in Poinsett County.
No identifying information such as the victims’ gender, ages, occupations, travel history or other factors was released by the department. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday warned that the virus is spreading and the state’s number of confirmed cases has jumped from 33 to 62 in a single day. While only two or three had to be hospitalized, Hutchinson stressed the situation is a significant public health issue.
“We have increasing community spread,” he said.
Public schools in Northeast Arkansas will remain shuttered until April 17. The governor said measures to help educate children will be put into place, but he didn’t give any specifics.
Bars and restaurants have been ordered to limit their services to take out, drive thru or delivery only, while bottled beer and wine can be sold on a carryout basis by those businesses that have valid licenses. All gyms were ordered closed, too.
“This is a serious situation,” Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said. “We’re going to need to make drastic changes to our lives, temporarily.”
Black River Technical College announced it will have online courses only when school resumes March 30. Arkansas State University has already moved all of its students to online courses, and it shut down its campus workout facilities on Thursday.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said the city has opened a COVID-19 page on its website as a way to help residents stay abreast of policy and changes taking place in city government, as well as ask questions and find links to information regarding the outbreak.
“While we work around the clock to adapt to the requirements – most notably social distancing – that will best see us through this emergency, we want to be as informative and responsive to our residents as we possibly can,” Perrin said. “With that in mind, I have met with my chiefs and departmental directors to put all pertinent information in one place that the public can easily access. It will include our regular news releases that have been sent out over the past two weeks, as well as briefings from me, members of my administration, health experts and community leaders.”
Perrin said the email address, [email protected], is for questions anyone might have and a phone hotline – 870-336-7244 – that will be manned 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays for people with questions or concerns. Emergency calls, as always, should be directed to 911.