Gov. Hutchinson talks testing, push to phase 2, and TempleLive concert

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 706 views 

One day after President Donald Trump said broader COVID-19 testing is “overrated,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday (May 15) reiterated the need for more testing, and the Arkansas Department of Health said all local health units in the state will open Monday for testing.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Hutchinson said the state has conducted 29,389 tests as of May 15, which is on track to surpass the 60,000 test goal he set for May. The daily numbers could increase with tests to be conducted at ADH local health units.

“Testing is encouraged for all individuals who believe they have had contact with or been exposed to a positive case as well as anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Tests will also be offered to anyone with or without symptoms who lives in or has traveled to an area experiencing active transmission,” noted a statement from ADH.

Those visiting the units for a test will self-collect a specimen using a provided nasal swab and container. The tests will be sent to the state’s public health lab and results are expected within 40 to 72 hours, while those with positive tests being contacted as soon as possible, according to ADH. (Link here for a list of health units.)

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 4,463 on Friday, up from 4,366 on Thursday. Of the 97 new cases, 18 are from correctional facilities. The number of deaths remained at 98. Of the total cases, 975 are active cases. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 64 on Friday, down from 69 on Thursday.

As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 1,427,867 U.S. cases and 86,386 deaths. Globally, there were 4,500,476 cases and 304,835 deaths.

PHASE 1, PHASE 2 CONSIDERATIONS
The governor announced Thursday the state would not fully move to phase 2 on May 18 as originally planned because of an uptick in positive cases. On Friday he stressed that the state economy will not “retreat” from phase 1, but may stay in the phase longer than planned.

“I expect to stay in phase 1 until we’re able to have confidence in our trajectory and that we’re not going to have a resurgence, that we can go in to phase 2,” he said, adding that an unexpected outbreak “could cause retrenchment,” but he doesn’t expect that to happen.

Gov. Hutchinson noted that more retail operations – such as restaurants and barbershops – will open May 18, and that Friday is the first day state parks lodges and cabins, marinas and other state-operated tourism facilities are open. He said several times during Friday’s briefing that Arkansas’ economy is “ready for business.”

“It needs to be emphasized that Arkansas is not under any lockdown order. We’ve never done a shutdown order in Arkansas or stay-at-home order. We’ve taken appropriate precautions and carefulness and given admonitions on social distancing. … And while we take the virus very seriously, we recognize the need to work and make a living and we want to continue to the next phase to continue to lift restrictions on businesses and activities in Arkansas. But we have to be smart about it,” he said.

TEMPLELIVE
The Arkansas Department of Health has approved plans for a May 18 concert at TempleLive in Fort Smith that was initially scheduled for May 15.

On Thursday, TempleLive officials decided to comply with Arkansas’ cease and desist order mandating cancellation of a May 15 concert at the TempleLive venue in downtown Fort Smith. The Travis McCready concert was set three days before a May 18 date that allows events in indoor venues.

Lance Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group which owns and manages TempleLive, had said the state’s decision was based on politics and power and not science. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith sent a 4-page cease and desist order Tuesday to TempleLive suggesting Beaty and others could face “administrative penalties, a civil or criminal fine or imprisonment if convicted, or all of the above.”

Prior to receiving approval, more detail required from ADH included distance between the performer and the audience, monitoring of social distancing rules, use of facemasks and availability and location of hand sanitizers. A follow-up letter from Terry Paul, ADH environmental health branch chief, said the response was satisfactory and the May 18 concert could proceed.

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