Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (Aug. 5) named a new director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), and said the state will test all inmates in its prisons by the end of August. The state reported 16,694 inmates at the end of May, down from 17,817 in May 2019.
Dr. Jose Romero, who has been acting as interim ADH director, was named by the governor as Arkansas Secretary of Health, succeeding Dr. Nate Smith who stepped down earlier this year for a job in Atlanta with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The announcement was made during Gov. Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 briefing.
Romero was previously the medical director for pediatric infectious diseases at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Romero also is the chair of the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC.
Regarding prison testing, Gov. Hutchinson said “100%” of inmates at the state’s 19 prison facilities will be tested by the end of August. However, he noted, 10 of the prisons have been fully tested. Part of Wednesday’s statewide test results showed 149 new COVID-19 cases from Chicot County, with all or most of those from the Delta Regional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
Gov. Hutchinson authorized the activation of 10 Arkansas National Guard members to help the Arkansas Department of Corrections with the testing.
Arkansas Secretary of Education Dr. Johnny Key also announced the “Ready for School Resource Call Center” to help answer questions the public may have about returning to school. The number is 1-833-353-6050, and is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 46,293 on Wednesday, up from 45,381 on Tuesday. Of the 912 new cases, 158 were from correctional facilities, and primarily at the Delta Regional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Chicot County.
There are 6,937 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 490 to 508. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 516 on Wednesday, down from 526 on Tuesday. There are 106 patients on ventilators, up from 101 on Tuesday. There are 38,848 cumulative recovered cases.
The top five counties with new community cases reported were: Pulaski (79), Sebastian (51), Washington (42), Mississippi (35), and Garland (29). The counties accounted for 31.3% of the 754 new community cases reported Wednesday.
As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 4,785,528 U.S. cases and 157,266 deaths. Globally, there were 18,609,287 cases and 702,164 deaths.