ARKANSAS, USA — Governor Asa Hutchinson held a press conference Thursday (March 12) to address the growing concerns of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Arkansas.
As of Thursday, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed five new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, totaling six in the state so far. The state is now awaiting confirmation of those tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials say that none of the patients were admitted to the hospital.
According to the ADH website, there are 20 people under investigation and 135 people who have recently traveled that are being monitored daily for the virus.
Health officials say that four of those who tested presumptive positive for the virus had contact with the person in Pine Bluff who was the first presumptive positive case in the state.
Schools in four counties in central Arkansas have closed for the next two weeks in precaution of possibly spreading the virus. Those include schools in Pulaski, Jefferson, Grant and Saline Counties.
Gov. Hutchinson said that school closings will be addressed on a case by case basis and that parents and schools "do not need to overreact" at this point.
Parents concerned about COVID-19 can call Arkansas Children's Hospital at 1-800-743-3616 to receive information about the virus.
The governor along with health officials will continue to update the public as information is received.
Arkansas Children's Hospital released a statement saying in part:
"Arkansas Children’s and UAMS have enjoyed an affiliation for more than 40 years. We share highly skilled physicians and other medical staff as well as a commitment to ensuring that Arkansans of all ages receive the very best possible care. That will never change and certainly not with COVID-19. Our health care teams deal with contagious and complex diseases every day. Our infectious disease and emergency preparedness teams have plans in place to address situations like a pandemic.
Together we are working closely with the Governor, municipal authorities, the Arkansas Department of Health and with other hospitals and health systems to maximize resources and provide the most effective care to patients affected by COVID-19.
We are all receiving questions from concerned citizens. Some of those concerned citizens have been showing up at our hospitals and clinics. We ask that people not do that.
Here are some helpful steps you can take instead.
- UAMS HealthNow is offering a free screening tool available 24 hours a day at UAMSHealth.com/healthnow. This service is for patients of all ages. You can access it from a smart phone, tablet, laptop or computer with video capabilities. UAMS has also set up a web page with helpful information for the general public at uamshealth.com/coronavirus
- Arkansas Children’s has set up a 24-hour hotline to address issues related to child health, where callers will reach a child health nurse. That number is 1-800-743-3616.
- There are simple things to do to avoid viruses: stay home when sick, wash hands with soap frequently, avoid people who are sick, avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing. If you have travel plans, check the CDC travel website prior to travel.
Our health systems are taking the following precautionary measures:
- Canceling classes and programs across all colleges and sending students home from all sites. (AC and UAMS)
- Limiting the number of patient visitors to 1 and medically screening all visitors. (UAMS)
- Limiting the number of patient visitors to 2 to allow parents to be with their children. Only 1 visitor will be allowed to stay overnight. (AC)
- Providing ongoing training for faculty and staff. (BOTH)
- Conducting medical screening of all employees. (AC and UAMS)
- Purchasing equipment that will allow us to assist ADH with testing for COVID-19, increasing capacity by 100 per day. (UAMS)
- Setting up a screening site away from the hospital and clinics for potential COVID-19 patients. (UAMS)
- Canceling all volunteer opportunities as of March 13. (BOTH)
- Restricting entrances and enacting visitor screening at all entrances. (AC)
- Adding additional shuttle buses for Little Rock employees parking at off-site locations to assist with social distancing. (UAMS)
We are grateful for the community support to help us spread this information quickly and are working tirelessly to provide the best standard of care for Arkansans during this uncertain time."