Gov. Hutchinson: Testing goal on track, too early to consider mail-in voting for November elections

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 284 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is on track to meet his goal of conducting 60,000 COVID-19 tests in May. He also said Wednesday (May 13) state and university officials are working on return protocols for fall classes.

As of May 12, there have been 23,949 tests conducted in Arkansas, for an average of 1,995.75 tests a day. On that pace the state could test almost 62,000 in May. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith also said the Arkansas Department of Health has a goal of employing 350 people as contact tracers. He said the state now has just over 200 doing that job.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 4,236, on Wednesday, up from 4,164 on Tuesday. Of the 72 new cases, only one was from within a prison. The number of deaths rose from 95 to 97. Of the total cases, 862 are active cases, with 3,277 recoveries. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 64 on Wednesday, up from 59 on Tuesday. Of the COVID-19 patients, 13 were on ventilators, up from 12 on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 1,379,756 U.S. cases and 83,150 deaths. Globally, there were 4,312,969 cases and 294,647 deaths.

In response to a media question, Gov. Hutchinson said they are working with university officials to considering rules and procedures for students returning to universities in the fall, such as testing students from out of state and those who live in the sometimes confined quarters of dormitories.

“We are looking and working with our higher education institutions (for) a means in which we can do rapid testing of students, not necessarily all students, but students that are symptomatic, students that have a particular need for testing that we can move in there quickly, identify any issue, and address it,” he said.

And in another response to a media question, the governor said he supports no-excuse mail-in voting, but it’s too early to make a decision on voting changes for the November general election.

“In terms of absentee voting, I’m in favor of no-excuse absentee voting. And so if there is a issue that needs to be addressed in November in which we are still in a public health emergency, I will at that time use the (emergency) powers for no-excuse absentee voting just has I did in some of the special elections that we’ve already had.”

Also on Wednesday, TY Garments, the China-based company operating in the Port of Little Rock, announced the donation of 1,500 disposable protective coveralls to Arkansas healthcare workers. Initially, 500 were given to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 500 to the city of Little Rock and 100 to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

The suits have been approved by the health department in China, produced at the Suzhou facility and have a protective hood, with elastic around the wrists and ankles and a front zipper. The heavyweight layered meltblown polypropylene is bonded together so it’s fluid, tear and puncture resistant and is 100% latex free.

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