Gov. Hutchinson says ‘targeted approach’ is working in Arkansas; COVID-19 cases up 8.1%

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 12,441 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has received some criticism for not issuing a stay-at-home order and for the state’s COVID-19 testing capacity, rolled out a set of numbers during Tuesday’s (April 7) press conference he said shows the state’s “targeted approach is working.”

COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 997 as of Tuesday evening, up from 875 on Monday. The number of deaths rose from 16 to 18. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 74 on Tuesday, the same as Monday. As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 379,965 U.S. cases and 11,851 deaths, with 3,485 in New York City. Globally, there were 1,390,511 cases and 79,091 deaths.

Of the COVID-19 patients, 26 were on ventilators, up from 22 on Sunday, and 134 were healthcare workers, up from 122 on Monday. Of the healthcare workers, 16 are physicians.

Using data from the Arkansas Department of Health, the governor showed that Arkansas is reporting 31.8 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, which is on the low end compared to neighboring states. Arkansas has conducted 454.9 tests per 100,000, which is more than Texas and Oklahoma, but fewer than the other surrounding states. A more telling indicator, Gov. Hutchinson said, is that Arkansas has just 2.5 hospitalizations per 100,000, fewer than any neighboring state. Louisiana had the most at 39.9.

“This is a good measuring stick as to how we compare with our surrounding states,” the governor said. “I share this because it should be an encouragement to the people of Arkansas that our targeted approach is working, that what you’re doing in terms of social distancing, wearing a mask, not having gatherings of more than 15, that makes a difference in how we get out of this, how soon we get out of this, and that we beat that curve.”

Gov, Hutchinson also said Dr. Bruce Murphy, CEO of Little Rock-based Arkansas Heart Hospital, is donating 500 of the new Abbott Labs testing devices to be used solely for testing healthcare workers. Abbott Labs announced in late March it would deliver 50,000 units a week beginning March 30 to meet the growing testing demand.

“Because of its small size, it can be used in more non-traditional places where people can have their results in a matter of minutes, bringing an alternate testing technology to combat the novel coronavirus,” Abbott noted about its new device.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said 1,436 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, the largest number in a 24-hour period. Of those, there was a 1.6% positivity rate, and 1,285 test results were from commercial labs.

During a question and answer session with the media, Smith was asked why New Mexico and Utah, states with similar populations, were able to conduct more tests. As of Tuesday, Utah conducted 34,647 tests and had 1,738 positive cases. New Mexico, as of April 6, conducted 21,825 tests with 686 positive cases. Arkansas as of Tuesday conducted 13,624 tests with 946 positive cases. The populations of Utah and New Mexico are 3.161 million and 2.095 million, respectively. Arkansas’ population is 3.014 million.

Smith said Arkansas has had to use “lower volume platforms,” which includes machines that take longer to complete tests. Smith said he is hopeful the pace of testing will “be able to scale up” in the near future.