More testing, more flu shots and improved contact tracing are part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s “winter strategy” to battle COVID-19, and how he hopes to reverse a trend that has the state at fourth in the nation for new cases per 100,000 population.
During his weekly COVID briefing, Gov. Hutchinson provided the following points as part of his winter strategy to address the virus during what is typically flu season.
• Increase flu shot participation
• Conduct 1 million COVID tests by Oct. 20, with the state at around 897,000 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests as of Sept. 22
• Increase consistency of contact tracing
• Emphasize use of masks and social distancing
A White House report on the states posted Sept. 20 shows that Arkansas continues to struggle with efforts to contain COVID-19.
“Arkansas is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 4th highest rate in the country. Arkansas is in the yellow zone for test positivity, indicating a rate between 5.0% and 7.9%, with the 18th highest rate in the country,” the report noted.
Actions cited in the report needed to lower the case growth included strengthening compliance with health guidelines, doing more to ensure “rigorous case investigation” through contact tracing, and to “dramatically increase” testing at colleges and universities.
In response to a media question about the White House report, Gov. Hutchinson said there was a good- and bad-news element to the report.
“First, in terms of the number of cases, that’s the bad news that we had in the report. That’s obviously too high of a weekly growth in cases. That’s why we are working every day to get that down. I was pleased with a decreased number the last few days, but that is a concern. We want fewer cases, and we want to slow that growth, and we hope that we can make progress there,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
The good news, Gov. Hutchinson said, was that the White House reported a reduction in the positivity rate. He said the lower rate indicates a “higher level of confidence that you’re going to eventually see a decline in cases.” As to mitigation, Gov. Hutchinson said the Alcoholic Beverage Control has conducted 2,067 inspections since June 29, with 90% being in compliance.
“We’ll continue to emphasize those enforcement efforts as well,” he said.
Stephanie Williams, chief of staff for the Arkansas Department of Health, said the time between lab results and the completion of case investigation and contact tracing ranges between five and seven days. Williams said time range has improved but ADH officials aren’t satisfied and continue to seek ways to improve the process.
COVID REPORT – Sept. 22
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 74,772 known cumulative cases, with 465 new community cases and 21 cases in correctional facilities
• 2,209 “probable” cases, up from 2,078 on Monday
• There are 6,188 active cases, down from 6,299 on Monday
• There were 6,810 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 651 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours with 112 positive results.
• 1,060, up 12
• 149 “probable” COVID-related deaths, up 1
459, up 12
88, down 9
The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (80), Benton (55), Craighead (30), Sebastian (28), and Washington (26). The counties accounted for 47.1% of the 465 new community cases.
As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 6,872,925 U.S. cases and 200,252 deaths. Globally, there were 31,409,623 cases and 966,574 deaths.