ARKANSAS, USA — We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas.
All cases are confirmed through the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
April 3 8:37 a.m. - The Arkansas Department of Health reports 687 confirmed cases.
April 2 7:09 p.m. - The Arkansas Department of Health is now reporting 683 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, with nearly 9,000 Arkansans tested.
April 2 2:04 p.m. - Top four counties with the most positive cases: Pulaski: 113, Cleburne: 63, Jefferson: 49, Benton: 40.
April 2 1:55 p.m. - Dr. Smith says both of the two individuals who recently died from COVID-19 had underlying health issues. One was older than 65 and in a nursing home, the other was an adult under the age of 65. Both were in Central Arkansas.
April 2 1:40 p.m. - 91 healthcare workers are infected, 10 are physicians, 26 are nurses, four are CNAs.
April 2 1:35 p.m. - Gov. Hutchinson pushed back against criticism over not issuing a shelter-in-place order in Arkansas. He claimed thousands more would lose their jobs if done, and several thousand Arkansans would still have to report to work even with the order in place.
April 2 1:33 p.m. - Gov. Hutchinson confirms 643 COVID-19 cases, 66 are hospitalized and two additional deaths, totaling 12 deaths so far in Arkansas.
April 2 10:37 a.m. - Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, will provide an update regarding Arkansas’s COVID-19 response at 1:30 p.m. in Little Rock Thursday.
April 1 7:24 p.m. - The Arkansas Department of Health is now reporting 624 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.
April 1 1:54 p.m. - Gov. Hutchinson says they remain very concerned about our nursing homes and have been pleased that there has not been explosive spread. Lab testing has been scaled up, 7124 have been taken but still not where they want to be.
April 1 1:49 p.m. - Stacy Hurst, Director of Arkansas state parks and tourism says it is desired to keep parks open, but only where it is safe. Day use only begins Friday (April 3) at state parks.
April 1 1:38 p.m. - 584 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, including two additional deaths, totaling 10 so far in the state. Of the positive cases: 18 are children, 170 adults are 65+, 396 adults are ages 18-64. 51 are residents of nursing homes and 25 are on a ventilator now. A total of 32 have ever been on a ventilator.
April 1 11:00 a.m. - The 25th annual Oklahoma Renaissance Festival has been canceled until 2021.
April 1 10:00 a.m. - The ADH is now reporting 566 confirmed cases in Arkansas as the state approaches 8,000 tests given.
April 1 9:48 a.m. - Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he will be providing an update on the response to coronavirus in Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. in Little Rock Wednesday.
April 1 9:06 a.m. - The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce announced that Pradco Outdoor Brands has sourced PPE equipment (face masks, hand sanitizer) and also manufactured 3D-printed face shields and will be delivering the items to both hospitals in Fort Smith for immediate use on Wednesday.
Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.
But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.
The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.
Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...
- The air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Help stop the spread of coronavirus
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Eat and sleep separately from your family members
- Use different utensils and dishes
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
- If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
Lower your risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.
I’m on social security. Do I need to file a tax return to receive my benefits?
No. If an individual has not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the government will use an individual's 2019 SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement or 2019 RRB-1099 Railroad Retirement Benefit Statement to advance payments to individuals who receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits. All Social Security beneficiaries-retired workers, disabled workers, eligible family members, and survivors-receive a Form SSA-1099. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are not provided a Form SSA-1099. SSI recipients who also receive Social Security benefits will be automatically forwarded a payment. SSI recipients who do not receive Social Security benefits will need to file a 2019 tax return to receive a payment if they are otherwise eligible. If an individual started receiving Social Security payments in 2020, they will need to file a 2019 tax return to be eligible. Adults who are claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's return are not eligible for a payment.
What do I need to do about my federal student loans?
Federal student loan borrowers do not need to take any action to suspend payments. Your federal student loan servicer will suspend all payments without any action from you. You do not need to contact your student loan servicer. While federal student loan payments are suspended, the loans shall not accrue any interest and the month of a suspended loan payment will be treated as if a loan had been made for purposes of loan forgiveness and loan rehabilitation. The suspension period will result in no negative credit reporting and also involuntary collection of the loan will be suspended—no wage garnishments, tax intercepts, offset of federal benefits, or any other collection activity. These protections do not apply to borrowers with Perkins Loans and borrowers whose FFEL loans are held by banks or guaranty agencies. If you have a Perkins Loan or an FFEL loan that is privately owned, you should contact your loan servicer to explore options they may be offering.
When will I get my check and how much will it be?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he expects most people to get their payments within approximately three weeks.
For Individual Filers: Americans who file their taxes as individuals will receive up to $1,200 in assistance. If your income was less than $75,000 in 2019, you will receive the full amount of $1,200. For those making above $75,000, reduced checks on a sliding scale will be paid. For every $100 you make over $75,000, your assistance will be reduced by $5.
For Married Couples Filing Jointly: Americans who file taxes jointly will receive up to $2,400 plus $500 for every dependent under the age of 17. If your joint income was less than $150,000 in 2019, you will receive the full amount of $2,400 plus $500 for every dependent under 17. For couples making above $150,000, reduced checks on a sliding scale will be paid. For every $100 you make over $150,000, your assistance will be reduced by $5.
I just lost my job. What are my options in terms of unemployment benefits?
Congress recently passed a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which will make certain Arkansans who lost their jobs due to the public health emergency are eligible for unemployment insurance, provided an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, and provided an additional $600/week in unemployment insurance through July 31. Arkansas normally offers 16 weeks of unemployment insurance; because of the new program, Arkansans will be eligible for a total of 29 weeks.
Individuals Eligible for Normal Unemployment Insurance: Unemployed workers who are eligible for traditional unemployment insurance will receive their normal income-based payment plus $600 a week until July 31st. If an individual is still unemployed after July 31, their payment will revert down to the traditional payment they would have received before the crisis.
Individuals Newly Eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployed workers who wouldn’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits but are now unemployed as a result of the pandemic will receive $600 a week plus an amount that the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services determines until July 31. After July 31, their payments will revert down to the amount that ADWS determines. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and “gig economy” employees will all be covered. However, to qualify, an individual must have lost their job or income due to the virus, tested positive or exhibited symptoms of the virus, or be caring for a member of your household or family who has been diagnosed with the virus.
Individuals who have had their hours cut: Arkansas offers partial unemployment benefits to certain individuals who have had their hours cut. Please contact the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to determine if you are eligible.
You can find more information on Senator Cotton’s website, here.