Governor Hutchinson opened by noting the national rate of people unemployed in April is 14.7%, while in Arkansas it is 10.2%. He said he is not happy with a 10% unemployment rate, but it puts our rate in perspective of how we compare nationally. This is the April report and things started opening in May, so he hopes the May numbers will be better. There are 102,000 more people unemployed in Arkansas than two months ago. They need relief and businesses need to hire again.
The Ready for Business program has approved 8,198 grants and the money will be going out today and over the weekend. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website is secure and processing claims. As of noon today, 7,105 claims have been paid and tonight 3,000 more will have funds sent to them. Anyone with claims pending who received an email today should go online and complete your weekly report. There will be 60 to 70 people working Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Yesterday, we had 5,458 total cases and today we have 154 new cases for a total of 5,612. Of the new cases, 135 were in the community. Hospitalizations fell from 86 to 81. We have three new deaths increase our total to 113.
Today’s graphs show we are down from yesterday’s record new cases. The 7-day rolling average is beginning to level off. The number of hospitalizations is turning down from a second peak that was lower than the first peak. Active cases are up and at a new peak.
In the last 24 hours, 2,900 cases were reported with a of positivity rate of under 5%. We are consistently below the national standard of 10%. The goal in May was to test 60,000; as of today, 51,275 tests have been completed this month.
Gov. Hutchinson bragged on Dr. Smith’s tracking team. From yesterday’s highest number so far, they have now traced 61% of the new cases. Washington County had the highest number of new cases with 32, most of which came from three households, which shows how quickly this can spread. Benton County had 22 and Greene County had eight, all of which came from the same street in Paragould.
We must continue to be careful and practice social distancing.
Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health
The numbers today are much less dramatic than yesterday. Of the 154 new cases, 19 were from prisons. The statewide total is now 5,612, of which 1,470 are active—86 in nursing homes, 510 in prisons, and 874 in the community.
There are 20 new cases in a nursing home in Union County, which brings the nursing home statewide total to 350 and there are 4 additional staff bringing that total to 201.
There were 13 new cases at the NCI in Forrest City, which increases their total to 622.
We had a net decrease of 5 in hospitals, lowering our total to 81 with 14 on ventilators same, the same as yesterday.
We had 114 new recoveries yesterday increasing that total to 4,029.
Yesterday, we tested 2,909 with an overall positive rate of 4.4%. We have now tested 102,041 people since the beginning and in May we have tested 51,275.
The counties with the highest number of new cases today were:
32 in Washington, half of which came from three households; 22 in Benton; 19 in Pulaski; 11 in Sevier; 10 in Crittenden and the 8 in Greene where all were on the same street in Paragould. All other counties had 5 or less.
From yesterday’s cases, about half of the 455 were from FC1. Of the 224 community cases, they have contacted 137 (61%) and of those 24% are known to be contacts of a previous case. Employment clusters made up another 37 of the 137. So far, they have only two that were related to a restaurant and two to gyms or fitness centers.
The directive for elective surgery will be updated effective Monday. It removes all of the ASA ratings, which means that sicker patients can get care, and procedures requiring increased lengths of stay can be performed. They prefer these patients to have been tested within 48 hours, but no more than 72 hours. There is an testing exemption for procedures done outside a hospital that have no contact with others.
Secretary Stacy Hurst
Secretary Hurst provided information to help people enjoy the holiday weekend. The trails at Cedar Falls and Delta Heritage trails are open, as are all trails at Cane Creek. Uniformed state park staff will be monitoring and enforcing social distancing. There are a few lodge rooms still available.
During the national health emergency, they have been in close collaboration with federal parks and four national trails have been reopened. She encouraged everyone to be safe and avoid congregating. She also said to be mindful of water levels and potential for flooding
Veterans Affairs Secretary Col. Nate Todd
Todd said that all 90 residents in the NLR Veterans Home were tested for COVID-19, and all were negative. They will soon test those in the Fayetteville veterans Home.
He reminded everyone of the personal sacrifices of our sons and daughters. We will pause to reflect and remember those that have served our nations. Military cemetery memorials will be closed to the public but broadcast via Facebook live. We will never forget the service of all.
Has AEDC gone through all of the Ready for Business grants?
The Governor said that in addition to the number he mentioned, there is another group that require additional information or corrected data.
Position on voting?
The Governor’s position has not changed. It is too early to make any decision now about something in November.
Reaction to legislators perturbed about agency no shows yesterday and now subpoenas?
The Governor said we regret any inconvenience and it was his call about who testifies. He directed them not to appear because they will be testifying to the Arkansas Legislative Council next week. He spoke to the House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem beforehand. They did have their ADH officials there. Yesterday, he needed all of Commerce concentrating on PUA and getting that money out. As to the ABC Director, the ADH was there to testify on the issue. TempleLive had the opportunity to appeal to more than one board. He directed the ABC director to not appear.
Of the 24% new cases from known cases, did the people not self-quarantine?
Dr. Smith said the most common issue is they were with people before they knew they were positive. Naba Poultry, Ozark Poultry, St. Bernard’s, and Cargill all had cases reported yesterday.
Concerns about cases going up with more places open. How actively will the state be watching to see if directives are being followed?
The Governor said the more information people have the better decisions they will make. We are not a heavy police state; we rely upon complaints from citizens. Many times they just remind people to do the right thing. I am comforted by the number today and contact tracing ability.
Dr. Smith added that they have learned there are things that keep people safe. Passing on a trail is safer than at a party. The individual behaviors are known that will allow people to get out. The virus does cluster in neighborhoods and families.
President Trump is calling for reopening?
The Governor said he has not seen exactly what the President said. He knows many churches still have not opened and are being careful. All are anxious for churches to open again, but the decisions are up to church leaders.
When will we get to Phase 2, this fall?
The Governor said it is not as far as the fall. But with the recent uptick, they are not thinking about Phase 2 right now. They are always looking at 14-day windows and watching the positivity rate the most – as long as it is going in the right direction.
Dr. Smith added that the overall trend will be viewed in two weeks.
State employees required to wear masks?
The Governor said their guidelines are the same as in private businesses. Masks are not needed at desks but should be worn when moving.
What factors are you looking for that indicate a second wave and what would you do?
The Governor said when you talk about a second wave it is really this winter or next year. Right now we are in the first wave and our measurements showed one peak and we have dropped but are now at a second peak.
Dr. Smith said we have not had a smooth up and down curve like models predicted. Contact tracing is the key. It tells them what to do next. We want to manage the environment in a growing economy.
Are surgical abortions included in group exempt from pre-procedure testing?
Dr. Smith said no.
Asked about SEC allowing individual workouts beginning on June 8?
The Governor said it sounds like the SEC is moving in the same direction as our state guidelines.
How does SEC relate to state guidelines?
The Governor said the state guidelines released yesterday do not include intercollegiate sports. They will look at those later this summer.
From all daily numbers and trends, does the hospitalization trend indicate the more serious cases?
The Governor said yes, they watch it carefully along with the rate of positive tests.
Dr. Smith added that hospitalizations and deaths are important, but they are lagging indicators. The positives are current.
Legislators say they are having a hard time justifying the state of emergency in light of current numbers?
The Governor said that is not what they were saying two months ago. He sent his position in a letter to the legislature. It would be impossible to provide for public safety without the authority he has from the legislature.
The Governor will have another press conference on Saturday, but not one on Sunday or Memorial Day.