Arkansas Department of Health officials report the first case of the first patient with coronavirus in Boone County is possibly related to travel, but no other information was released Friday.
Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson and Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway announced in a joint statement Thursday night the first positive case of coronavirus.
But Jackson said no other information was released Thursday night. The identity of the patient was confidential.
State Health Department officials say most questions about the case could lead to identification of the patient. No gender or age was provided, nor were the places the patient had gone, if he/she had been hospitalized and severity of symptoms.
Officials would only say that the case was possibly connected to travel.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a briefing Friday that the total number of cases rose from 62 Thursday to 96 Friday about 1:30 p.m.
State Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said that of the 96 positive cases, eight were children, 62 were adults between 19 and 64 and 26 were 65 or older.
Smith said three nursing homes in the state have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak — Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock.
One patient that has tested positive for COVID-19 at both Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab and The Villages of General Baptist West. Thirteen cases, including patients and staff, have tested positive at Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. ADH is currently screening all other staff and residents for COVID-19 at Briarwood, and ADH staff are now onsite at Briarwood.
People above the age of 65 are at a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. In an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19, ADH issued a directive on March 13 prohibiting visitation to nursing homes, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, post-acute head injury retraining and residential care facilities, and any other facility that provides long-term medical or personal care. Anyone needing to enter one of these facilities is subject to screening. The directive is in place until April 12.
When asked if Arkansas had an adequate supply of ventilators, Smith said there were enough to serve current needs with even some capacity for a surge.
Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor at University of Arkansas for Medical Services, echoed Smith’s estimation. Patterson said the number of ventilators was less of a problem for him than making sure ventilators are in the right locations. Some may have to be moved from locations where they aren’t needed to locations where they are.
Hutchinson said the Department of Finance and Administration has issued an advance of $30 million to seek medical equipment the state will need soon and in the future.
The governor said the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management is in charge of the procurement and it will take some time, “but that is in the works.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said her office has released an additional $3 million from lawsuit settlements to the Quick Action Loan Program to allow small business owners to take care of displaced employees.
She said her office had received 185 price gouging complaints, although some were in connection with an individual who posted an item for sale on Facebook at an inflated price as a joke. She said even those jokesters will get a call from investigators.
Of all those complaints there are 24 active investigations. Some of those include overinflated prices for surgical masks, but some of those companies are outside the United States and outside prosecution by Arkansas.
Rutledge warned that there are “literally thousands” of fake COVID-19 websites designed to collect personal information. She recommended using the Health Department’s website as a reliable resource for information.
State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education director Johnny Key said the federal government on Friday offered a waiver from standardized testing. Arkansas will seek that waiver, but he said it wouldn’t affect federal education funding in the future.
With public schools closed until at least April 17, students are continuing education with alternate method of instruction (AMI) packets set home from school.
In some cases, districts have closed down buildings completely, and teachers aren’t allowed to enter the buildings to prepare additional AMI packets.
In those cases, Key said, the department is working with public television to offer programming that could satisfy those needs in grades K-8.
For high school, the department is working with Virtual Arkansas to offer programs online. Officials are also trying to make cure high-speed WiFi is available to all Arkansas high school students.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with preexisting health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while others could take three to six weeks to get well.