The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the Arkansas National Guard to find alternate sites for hospital facilities, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday (March 27). He also said the number of COVID-19 cases in the state could rise to 3,500 by mid-April.
COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 381 as of early afternoon Friday. The number of deaths remained the same at three. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 48 on Friday, up from 41 on Thursday. As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 94,238 U.S. cases and 1,438 deaths. Globally, there were around 576,859 cases and more than 26,400 deaths.
Based on estimates from the Arkansas Department of Health, Gov. Hutchinson said the number of COVID cases in the state could rise to 2,000 by the first week of April, and up to 3,500 cases by mid-April. Assuming a 20% hospitalization rate, that would place 700 Arkansans in a hospital bed.
“My goal is to beat those numbers. And that’s what we’re trying to do as a state,” the governor said during Friday’s press conference.
To beat the estimates, Gov. Hutchinson implored Arkansans to abide by health department directives when it comes to social distancing and limiting gatherings to 10 or less. He also noted that the size limit on gatherings is now not just a guideline, but has the force of law. He said he has asked all law enforcement agencies in the state to help enforce the law.
He also said the state has ordered 500 ventilators, but he and other state officials will have to “fight” to ensure the order is fulfilled.
According to the Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, assessment teams are now looking at sites that could be converted to alternate care locations. The teams are working with members of the Arkansas National Guard, personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and other state and local agencies for sites that could quickly be converted to an alternate site.
“Our technical teams are prepared to assist the nation and the state of Arkansas to the very best of our capabilities during this crisis. We continue to stay in close contact with our federal, state and local partners to ensure we work through the COVID-19 Pandemic together,” Little Rock District Commander Col. Eric Noe said in a statement.
Nationwide, the Corps has received $361 million from FEMA to help respond to the pandemic.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also announced her office is giving $1 million to help the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and other hospitals buy personal protective equipment. The money comes from a fund that holds lawsuit settlement proceeds.