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|2020 coronavirus pandemic in Arkansas|
Arkansas National Guard soldiers staff phones for Arkansans' questions about COVID-19
Counties by number of positive cases in Arkansas as of March 27:
50+ Confirmed cases
25–49 Confirmed cases
10–24 Confirmed cases
5–9 Confirmed cases
1–4 Confirmed cases
|Index case||Pine Bluff|
|Arrival date||March 11, 2020 |
(3 weeks and 1 day)
|Arkansas Department of Health|
The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have reached the U.S. state of Arkansas in March 2020. The first case in Arkansas was reported on March 11, 2020 in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County. As of April 2, 2020, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has confirmed 643 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state with 12 deaths and 47 recoveries. A total of 8,523 tests have been processed.
On March 12, five more presumptive cases were reported, four of which had contact with the original Pine Bluff case, prompting the governor to order school closings in Grant, Jefferson, Pulaski, and Saline counties. Dr. Nathaniel (Nate) Smith, the Director and State Health Officer of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said it was believed the original Pine Bluff case likely became infected in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
On March 13, Governor Hutchinson announced three more presumptive cases in the state, including the first instance of community spread. He recommended not to hold gatherings of more than 200 people in the counties with affected cases.
On March 14, Governor Hutchinson announced three more presumptive positive cases, with all three cases being healthcare workers at Jefferson Regional Medical Center and related to the original Pine Bluff case. He acknowledged that other Arkansans had probably contracted the disease, but they haven't been confirmed due to limited testing. During a press conference with the governor, the University of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences chancellor, Cam Patterson, remarked that he hoped adding a new machine within a week would increase the ability for testing 160 tests per day compared to the current 20. Before the end of the day, the Arkansas Department of Health's website had been updated to show that all presumptive positive cases were updated to confirmed cases.
On March 15, Governor Hutchinson reported during a press conference that all public schools would close beginning Tuesday, March 17, with the option of closing Monday, March 16, if they were prepared. Schools would remain closed through spring break the following week. Earlier in the day, the Arkansas Department of Health's website was updated to show that there were 16 confirmed cases in the state.
On March 16, Governor Hutchinson reported during a press conference in Fayetteville that the number of cases has risen to 22, with two of these in central Arkansas and two cases in Cleburne County, which were the result of out-of-state travel. He remarked that the testing capabilities of the state would be ramping up and that cases should be expected to rise along with more testing. He recommended that the number of people in events should be limited to 50, per CDC guidelines. He also discouraged unnecessary out-of-state travel.
On March 17, Governor Hutchinson reported during a press conference in West Memphis that the number of cases remained at 22, but reiterated that confirmed cases are expected to rise as more tests occur in the coming days. He ordered all casinos closed for two weeks and said that for the next 30 days, the one-week waiting period and work reporting requirement to receive unemployment benefits had been waived. The ADH's website was updated with a map that showed the virus was now present in Cleveland, Desha, and Lincoln counties.
On March 18, Governor Hutchinson said the state was working to allocate $12 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds, aiming to target hospitals and other businesses essential to the coronavirus response. Additionally, he said he would allocate $4 million from the state's Quick Action Closing Fund which would provide loans of up to $250,000 to help businesses make payroll and stay open. The state also requested a disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration which would help provide loans of up to $2 million to provide capital for businesses. The state is also relaxing SNAP work requirements through May. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Bradley, Faulker, and Washington counties had confirmed cases.
On March 19, Governor Hutchinson reported during his daily press conference an increase to 62 confirmed cases, many from community spread. This prompted him to institute measures to try to help mitigate further spread. He announced public schools would remain closed through April 17; restaurants and bars would not be allowed to provide dine-in services but could still provide carryout, curbside pickup, or delivery, beginning Friday, March 20; state government employees would begin working from home; healthcare providers would begin screening all visitors and staff for fever and symptoms; and indoor venues such as gyms would be closed to visitors. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Clark, Craighead, Grant, Independence, Poinsett, Pope, Searcy, Sevier, and Van Buren counties had confirmed cases.
On March 20, Governor Hutchinson reported during his press conference that the number of cases at that time were up to 96. Thirteen of these new cases were connected to a nursing home in Little Rock where four staff and nine residents tested positive. Dr. Nate Smith added that of the 96 cases, 26 were people over the age of 65, 62 were between ages 19 and 64, and eight were children. Education Secretary Johnny Key said that the state would apply for a federal government waiver to standardized testing requirements. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said an additional $3 million would be added to the loan program for small businesses that the governor announced on March 18. Col. John Schuette, installation commander of the Little Rock Air Force Base, announced that an active-duty U.S. Air Force airman assigned to the base tested positive. A 30-day public health emergency for the base was declared. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Benton, Boone, Crittenden, Greene, and Polk counties had confirmed cases.
On March 21, Governor Hutchinson reported an increase in the number of cases to 118. He said the state expects the spread of the virus to peak in 6 to 8 weeks, at which time there would be an estimated 1,000 Arkansans hospitalized with the disease. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Sebastian County had a confirmed case.
On March 22, Governor Hutchinson reported an increase in the number of cases to 165. Forty-one of the total cases came from a nursing home in Little Rock. Hutchinson said the state was having a hard tough securing personal protective equipment (PPE). Arkansas received 25 percent of the PPE the state requested from the federal government's national storehouse. He estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 Arkansans had filed for unemployment in the previous week. Due to such a high number of claims, Hutchinson said he would ask the Arkansas General Assembly to approve $1.1 million from his rainy day fund for upgrades to the unemployment system. Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said the Arkansas Economic Development Commission had received around 300 calls and emails inquiring about the business loans the governor had outlined earlier in the week. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Columbia, Conway, Union, and Woodruff counties had confirmed cases.
On March 23, Governor Hutchinson announced cases that point of the day had risen to 174. He said the individual income tax filing deadline would be moved to July 15 and he would call for a special legislative session to deal with expected budget shortfalls due to the pandemic. Corporate taxes would still be due April 15. Hutchinson expected an estimated $353 million shortfall for the state budget. Dr. Nate Smith said that five patients at met the criteria to be called recovered cases. Smith announced that barber shops, beauty and nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo shops would close beginning Tuesday, March 24. In Cleburne County, a deacon for a local church said that 34 people who attended an event at the church had tested positive and others were awaiting results. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Crawford, Lawrence, Stone, and White counties had confirmed cases.
The first death in the state was reported on March 24, a 91-year-old male from Faulkner County. In his daily press conference, Governor Hutchinson reported that a second death had also occurred, a 59-year-old male from Sherwood. Hutchinson reaffirmed that he did not want to issue a shelter-in-place order like other states had despite saying the state was still in the beginning stages of its outbreak. Both Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith remarked that April 12 would be too early for the state to return to normal operations, which is the date President Trump had targeted during an interview earlier in the day. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Cross, Hempstead, Hot Spring and Pike counties had confirmed cases.
On March 25, the ADH issued a recommendation that all travelers from New York and all international travelers should self-quarantine for 14 days. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Drew County had a confirmed case. On March 26, the state reported its third death from the virus, a 73-year-old male from Cleburne County. Governor Hutchinson announced a $116 million plan to provide support for healthcare workers in the state, with $91 million coming from the federal government. This plan would provide nurses an additional $1,000 a month with that number rising to $2,000 a month for nurses treating a COVID-19 patient. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Chicot, Howard, Lonoke and Randolph counties had confirmed cases.
On March 27, the ADH's website updated their county map to show Baxter County had a confirmed case. On March 28, the state confirmed two more deaths, bringing the total to five. Both cases were in central Arkansas, with one person being in their 70s and the other in their 40s. The number of unemployment claims for the previous week were a record 30,000, an increase from the 9,400 the previous week. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Johnson County had a confirmed case.
On March 29, the state recorded its sixth death. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Arkansas, Ashley, Nevada, and Perry counties had a confirmed case, and Hempstead County was reinstated on the map. On March 30, the state reported its seventh death, an 83-year-old woman infected in a nursing home in Little Rock. The state legislative leaders approved Governor Hutchinson's request to use $45 million from the newly created COVID-19 rainy-day fund. These funds would primarily be used for the purchase of PPE. The ADH's website updated their county map to show Newton and St. Francis counties had confirmed cases. On March 31, the ADH's website updated their county map to show Miller and Scott counties had confirmed cases.
On March 11, Governor Hutchinson declared a public health emergency in response to the first presumptive case in the state. On March 12, the governor ordered school closings in Saline, Jefferson, Pulaski, and Grant counties until March 30. On March 14, Hutchinson activated the Arkansas National Guard to provide support with logistics, transportation, and other needs. All public schools were ordered to close beginning Tuesday, March 17. On March 17, Hutchinson closed casinos for two weeks and loosened restrictions on claiming unemployment benefits for 30 days. On March 19, Hutchinson announced new measures to help limit the spread of the disease, including keeping public schools closed through April 17 and banning restaurants and bars from providing dine-in services. On March 23, the individual income tax filing deadline was pushed back until July 15, and barber shops, beauty and nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors were ordered to close on Tuesday, March 24.
On March 16, Little Rock mayor Frank Scott, Jr. announced a citywide curfew to keep residents from being outside from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Wednesday, March 18. This did not apply to people traveling to and from work. Little Rock police officers would question people in public places, but not stop drivers. Additionally, homeless individuals would not be cited. On March 25, Scott extended the curfew to begin at 9 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. He also announced the introduction of a daytime curfew for minors from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that would be in effect from March 30 to April 17.
On March 16, the Fayetteville city council voted unanimously to grant the mayor emergency powers to regulate gatherings. The council also appropriated $3 million in emergency funds to address the pandemic locally.
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro announced on March 15 that beginning Tuesday, March 17, all in-person instructions would transition to all-online instructions for the remainder of the semester. The campus would remain open. Graduation ceremonies would be reevaluated as they got closer.
Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia announced on March 12 that it was canceling all face-to-face classes scheduled for the week of March 16 through March 20, prior to the week of spring break. Course delivery would shift fully online beginning March 30 and continuing through the end of the semester. The campus was not closed and housing, dining, and other services would remain in operation.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville announced on March 12 that it was suspending all in-person classes immediately and would begin online courses starting Monday, March 16, and continue through the end of the semester. The campus was not closed and housing, dining, and other services would remain in operation. After a student tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24, the university announced it would be closing campus and gave student until April 3 to leave.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced on the afternoon of March 12 that in-person instruction would transition immediately to online instruction. The campus would remain open. Graduation ceremonies would be reevaluated as they got closer.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) announced on March 17 that all instructions would move to an online setting through the end of the semester. The university remained open, including residence halls and food services. On March 19, UAM, based on a recommendation from the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, announced that spring commencement exercises would be postponed and graduates would be invited to participate in the December 11 commencement ceremony.
In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association cancelled all winter and spring tournaments, most notably the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide. On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.
|As of April 1, 2020|