The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Arkansas, and the case count is likely to rise further as state officials turn their focus in June to expanded testing of more than 55,000 residents and staff at private and public nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
In the past five days – Saturday through Wednesday – 1,290 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, which is 16% of all cases reported since March 11. Most of the new cases are in Northwest Arkansas and central Arkansas.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 8,067 on Wednesday, up from 7,818 on Tuesday. Of the 249 new cases, four were from correctional facilities. Of the total cases, 2,208 are active cases, 55 are in correctional facilities and 102 in nursing homes. The number of deaths rose from 136 to 142. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas again reached a new high of 138 on Wednesday, up from 132 on Tuesday. There are 30 patients on ventilators, down from 31 on Tuesday. There are 5,717 Arkansans who have recovered.
As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 1,839,167 U.S. cases and 106,553 deaths. Globally, there were 6,435,453 cases and 382,093 deaths.
Of the 245 new community cases reported Wednesday (June 3) during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 briefing, 33 were from Pulaski County, 28 from Washington County, and 20 from Benton County. One in three of the new cases reported Wednesday were from one of the three counties.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said rising COVID-19 cases are largely the result of Hispanic workers connected to poultry plants and more cases among younger adults. He also expressed concern with the rise in Pulaski County cases.
“We’re going to have to watch our numbers here in Pulaski County and be very careful not to let down on those practices of physical distancing, wearing masks, etc.,” Smith said.
NURSING HOME FOCUS
Gov. Hutchinson said the push to expand testing in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is to not only identify and respond to COVID-19 cases, but to also provide state officials with a direction in how to best reopen the facilities to family visits.
Smith said less than 5% of cases are from nursing homes, but 39% of total deaths are from nursing home residents. The state is using LabCorp to facilitate testing in nursing homes. LabCorp is a Burlington, N.C.-based publicly-held company (NYSE: LH) with 65,000 employees worldwide that process around 3 million lab tests a week.
Following are the number of residents and staff, provided by the governor’s office, to be tested in June.
• Nursing homes: 16,000-18,000 residents and 20,000-22,000 staff
• Alternate living facilities: 6,000 residents and 5,000 staff
• Arkansas Department of Human Services facilities: 5,000 residents (no staff number is given)
Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, said the nursing home industry is dealing with “unprecedented challenges that are faced nowhere else.” However, speaking during the Wednesday conference, Bunch said recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers suggest Arkansas nursing homes are doing better than those in other states.
The CDC data shows 23.6 cases per 1,000 residents in Arkansas, below the 62 per 1,000 nationwide. Also, Arkansas nursing homes have six deaths per 1,000, compared with 27.5 per 1,000 nationwide, and the rate with nursing home staff is 13.9 per 1,000, almost three times less than the 39.5 per 1,000 nationwide.