The Governor said that 830 cases were reported yesterday. The number of cases has increased 45 to a total of 875 today. 74 patients are hospitalized and there are no new deaths
Regarding efforts to slow the spread in Arkansas, the Governor displayed a graph showing the amount of time that it is taking for our total cases to double. The graph showed that the days for cases to double in Arkansas were 1, 4, 2, 1, 3, 3, and 7 days. The Governor also displayed another graph from Dr. Deborah Birx of the federal coronavirus task force on cumulative cases per 100,000. The graph showed that of the states that were displayed Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio were the top states with increases. Arkansas was near the bottom on that graph.
The Governors also said that it is clear this is going to go on for some time, despite our flattening of the curve. We will have to continue mitigation efforts. He had previously said that schools would be closed until April 17 and indicated that he was very thankful for the work of teachers in this situation. After consulting with Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith and Secretary of Education Johnny Key, he said he has decided to close the remainder of the school year to in-school instruction, but remote instruction will continue.
The Governor also said he asked Dr. Smith about making 5 ventilators available to Louisiana and Dr. Smith said that we could spare them.
Report by Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health
Arkansas now has 875 cases, which is 45 more than yesterday. One new county, Izard, was reported, which brings the total to 65 counties with cases. Gender, race, and age percentage breakdowns are similar to past reports.
Percentage of cases by age range: 2.3% – 18 & under; 6.7% – 18 to 24; 30.3% – 25 to 44; 34.9% – 45 to 64; and 25.7% (225) 65 and older.
31.6% of cases have one or more underlying conditions. 74 patients are hospitalized, which is up 7 from yesterday. 22 patients are currently on ventilators; this is down 5 from yesterday. There were no new deaths reported; the total deaths remain at 16. 102 patients have recovered, which is up 5. 59 cases are in nursing homes; this is down 1 due to a death. 122 healthcare workers have tested positive: 15 are doctors, 36 nurses and 15 CNAs; the rest are registered and unregistered personnel.
The Arkansas Department of Health is following 13 nursing homes with at least one resident or one worker that has tested positive. The total deaths from nursing homes remains at 4. 32 workers have tested positive, which is up 5.
There were 949 test results reported yesterday: 822 from a commercial lab of which 4% were positive, ADH completed 76 and 10.5% were positive and UAMS completed 51 tests yesterday but Dr. Smith did not give the percentage of positives.
The time it is taking for the number of our cases to double has slowed and he hopes to slow it even more. The slowing is a result of social distancing and other actions. We are very happy to help out Louisiana, but he does not want to become like them. Arkansans are doing things every day to help.
Johnny Key, Secretary of Education
Schools will be closed the rest of the school year, but AMI instruction will continue. Their deal with Arkansas PBS will continue and is being extended from April 17 to May 1. This will allow districts to make plans for future AMI.
Most schools are prepared to continue AMI for the rest of the year and the Arkansas Department of Education will work with those that need assistance. Charters will get help from the Arkansas Resource Center. Help with internet connectivity will be provided to schools that need it. School districts may continue lunch programs as long as they follow the CDC Guidelines.
His expectations for AMI for the rest of year include being flexible; it is not practical to replicate the school experience while kids are at home. Seniors will graduate. It was previously announced that those who had completed requirements by the end of the third quarter were eligible to graduate, but they still must meet local needs. AP tests can be taken at home.
Online teaching will focus on the core subject. He urged caution on using new content; teachers should focus on essential standards until schools close for the year. He expects schools to set expectations for their teachers. Schools should be flexible; it is time to support learning and not compliance.
What is our supply of ventilators?
Dr. Smith said we have just short of 800 ventilators total. Between 500 and 550 are not in use.
Two doctors have asked about the President’s continued suggestion about chloroquine and if there is a surging demand?
Dr. Smith said there is limited evidence of its benefits. As a doctor, he would want more evidence before recommending its use. It is reasonable to make it available for those who are very sick. Potential side effects should be monitored by a doctor. He is not aware of any supply issues. If people start hoarding, it will hamper treatment of people with lupus.
Will next year school year be impacted?
Secretary Key said since they now have clarity on this school year, they will start looking at the impact to next year.
How many high school seniors are in public system?
Secretary Key said he estimated around 35,000.
AP set rules for testing, has ACT set anything?
Secretary Key said they are working on rescheduling on-site ACT exams.
What about professional development for teachers?
Secretary Key that that right now is a good time for online development. Under a new law, there are new requirements on the science of reading.
What factors for school report cards?
Secretary Key said they are largely based on ASPIRE results, which are not being done so that will cause difficulty. Also, attendance and growth are factors that are also impacted by the closings.
How will things be weighted in the school assessment?
Secretary Key said they have not yet decided.
Most schools can continue AMI, can you categorize those that need help?
Secretary Key said small and remote districts will need more support. He has seen some be creative. Some have used printed packets and others are using the internet.
Friday’s directive regarding elective surgeries, do you believe abortions should stop?
Dr. Smith said that as worded, the directive applies to any procedure that can be safely deferred. It is not intended to replace a doctor’s judgement.
Follow-up: This provides a lot of freedom?
The Governor said Dr. Smith answered the question well.
University of Washington study about fatalities falling?
The Governor referred back to a graphic that showed Arkansas is in the bottom 9 of all 50 states. Deaths and hospitalization per 100,000 projections show Arkansas is beating the curve.
Dr. Smith said our current 16 deaths is pretty low per capita. We were one of the last states to have its first death. When you track comparative timing our deaths are about the same as California and the California curve is lower that Washington and New York where there is a lot of data.
Are stay at home orders effective?
Dr. Smith said that such orders are as effective as people abide. If people abide by the current Arkansas directives, it would be the same. They question what can actually be done and can it be sustained for a period of time are issues they consider as to whether a directive or an order should be given. He believes our plan can be sustained.
The Governor said Arkansas has some health challenges and we have an elderly population, so these factors impact the results.
Are we still trying to get more ventilators, will we need more?
The Governor said we still have an order in for more ventilators, but it is important that we help Louisiana today. They hope to flatten the curve and exposure, so we will not need any more ventilators.
What about Senator Garner’s desire to limit funding for the AEDC staff in China?
The Governor said it is short-sighted and somewhat isolationist. The Governor said that he is a realist. We have reduced staff allocation in China, but many of our businesses do a lot of business in China. He does not want to send a signal to China that we do not want to sell them our rice, poultry etc. He has spoken with Sen. Garner.
If we stay on current path, will we have plenty of hospital beds and ICU beds until the peak?
The Governor said if people follow the directives, then we should continue flattening the curve. If we are not successful and the rate accelerates, then Dr. Smith will look at additional measures.
There are probably 20 projections available for Arkansas and they change day by day. Because of our success, the University of Washington has changed their model. We want to beat any projections.
Dr. Smith added that we need to use available information to plan wisely to improve our situation a month or two from now. We have to plan for the worst because we do not know exactly what will happen.
Update on testing?
Dr. Smith said we are working to grow testing capacity. Commercial labs have decreased their backlogs. He hopes to see more tests done per day.
The Governor added that Walmart and Quest Labs should be up and running this week. They will prioritize first responders and healthcare workers.
Will any patients be transferred from Louisiana to Arkansas?
The Governor said he does not see that as a possibility.
Resources for 504 plans and IEP?
Secretary Key said schools need to stay in close contact and do the best they can to align students. Same for certain therapies to compensate for what was missed.
Are we bending rules for scholarships?
Secretary Key said that under a previous emergency order, waivers have been posted on website. As more are needed, he will be talking to the Governor.
What about graduation ceremonies?
Secretary Key said they will be subject to the ADH guidelines. Some may be virtual, and some may be onsite with proper guidelines; this is still up in the air.
To see the full press conference, click https://youtu.be/KS2Kb4V8U3I