Arkansas now has 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 20 counties

Gov. Asa Hutchinson gives daily coronavirus briefing March 19

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Governor Asa Hutchinson urged restaurants to close their dining rooms as the state’s confirmed cases of coronavirus jumped to 62 Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 46 confirmed cases, but that number increased to 62 by the afternoon.

According to the state health department, there are confirmed cases in 20 counties across the state, including Craighead and Poinsett.

Two children have also tested positive in these new cases. As of Thursday afternoon, 23 of the tests were done in labs and six in commercial labs.

The total cases include six children, 15 elderly (65+) and 41 adults age 19 to 64. State health officials have not released the exact locations.

Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said most of the infections are from contact or travel-related incidents. He said only two or three are hospitalized.

Hutchinson announced all K-12 schools will remain closed for on-site instruction for an additional three more weeks until April 17. In the meantime, education will continue through alternative instruction methods.

He said state government employees will conduct business through telecommuting and onsite work.

Hutchinson also mandated that all hospitals and clinics screen staff by taking temperatures and looking for symptoms before allowing people into the building.

The governor also suggested indoor facilities, like gyms, should be closed except for non-essential functions.

He also said bars and restaurants should be closed for dine-in service and open only for drive-thru, carry-out and delivery.

“We are being very aggressive in this and we hope to limit the pain we are all dealing with,” said Hutchinson.

Smith said, “This is a serious situation. We have to make dramatic changes to our lives.”

Arkansas has acquired three machines that can test 150 samples per day and allows up to 600 per day at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The new testing will have a six- to nine-hour turnaround instead of a few days.

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