Governor: No plans for statewide school, business shutdowns; working to expedite 1,104 more nurses

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 883 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday (Nov. 20) he does not plan to shut down schools or businesses despite rising numbers among COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

On Friday, the governor reported 2,061 new confirmed and probable cases, 36 more hospitalizations, and 24 more deaths.

In an interview with Talk Business & Politics for Sunday’s TV show, Hutchinson said it would not be fair to business owners who have followed state health directives and have worked to keep their facilities safe.

“It is just as wrong as can be for the government to come in and say ‘you’ve got to shut down again’ – even though you’re doing everything right and you’re not having any cases come out of there – because there’s a lot of pressure that we ought to shut down businesses,” Hutchinson said. “That is just not what we’re going to do.”

He said schools have the option to allow for virtual learning and can shut down if locals choose to do so. His bigger concern is how students will congregate outside of school settings.

“If you have the schools that go all virtual, what’s going to happen to the teenagers? What’s going to happen to the young people? Are they going to sit at home all day long? I doubt it,” he said.

While he issued an order yesterday through the Arkansas Department of Health to close bars and restaurants with alcohol permits at 11 p.m., he said further restrictions were unlikely.

“We don’t have any data that says [restaurants] have been a problem,” he said.

In the TB&P interview, which will air Sunday morning statewide, and at a Friday afternoon press conference, Hutchinson voiced concerns regarding equipment, hospital beds and staffing to handle the patient load that is taxing the state’s health care facilities. His Winter Task Force has recommended that the state Nursing Board expedite 1,104 soon-to-be nursing graduates for licensure. Their fees for certification could be waived, although background checks will remain in place.

Dr. Cam Patterson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences chancellor, said his health care system has 400 employees under quarantine. He also said UAMS’s supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) was good with a 60-day inventory.

The state enacted a traumacon system in 2009, and it could be used to move COVID patients around the state, Patterson said. If the system is activated, it will assess resources at hospitals statewide and identify resources and open beds at different facilities. A timeframe for possibly activating the system was not discussed.

Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health, said vaccines would be available “to a select few” in Arkansas sometime in December. Gov. Hutchinson discussed this possibility in greater detail in the upcoming Sunday interview.

New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 125,783 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,600 new community cases and 18 cases in correctional facilities
• 16,133 probable cases, up 443
• There are 17,360 active cases, up 362
• There were 15,095 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 3,383 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.

• 2,125, up 20
196 probable COVID-related deaths, up 4

935, up 36

152, up 6

Recovered cases

The top five counties with new known cases reported Friday were: Pulaski (209), Washington (162), Benton (133), Craighead (107), and White (90). The counties accounted for 43.8% of the 1,600 new community cases.

As of Friday at 1:30 p.m., there were 11,854,203 U.S. cases and 253,882 deaths. Globally, there were 57,365,049 cases and 1,368,746 deaths.