Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Department of Health give update on COVID-19

FULL BRIEFING: Gov. Hutchinson and ADH COVID-19 - 3/26

ARKANSAS (WMC) - Governor Asa Hutchinson and officials with the Arkansas Department of Health gave an update Wednesday on the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

As of Thursday, there are more than 300 cases of coronavirus in Arkansas along with three deaths.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, a 91-year-old man and a man in his 50s died Tuesday from COVID-19. Both were from central Arkansas.

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said one had an underlying health condition, and age was a factor with the other. Neither men were nursing home patients and neither were travel-related.

No details about the third death have been released.

The governor also rolled out a new initiative geared toward rural hospitals. It will keep the doors of Arkansas health care providers open and employees employed.

Hutchinson said, “The plan will be in effect during an emergency but will have lasting benefits.”

The estimated cost of the proposal related to COVID-19 is $116.3 million.

Almost $91 million would come from the federal government under a Medicaid waiver. The state would kick in the additional $25 million. Arkansas is asking Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for approval.

The proposal also pays $1,000 a month for nurses and $2,000 a month for those nurses with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The proposal will help rural hospitals and health care facilities with 65 beds or less. Some of the money will be used for expanding isolation for COVID-19 patients and adding more beds where necessary. Hutchinson said the payments will be a little disproportionate to facilities with a higher number of COVID-19 patients.

Additional money allocated to rural hospitals will help them build temporary screening facilities, drive-thru testing, direct care workers (nursing homes), homeless programs and also an extra payment to foster families.

COVID-19: What older adults need to know about the outbreak and staying healthy

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said officials have received help in getting much needed medical equipment. As of Thursday, the state has 3 million N95 masks, 4 million surgical masks, 4 million gowns, 2.1 million face shields and 7 million gloves to help medical workers treat people impacted by the virus.

On Wednesday, Hutchinson created a directive, saying individuals must abide by the 10 people or less guideline in a gathering. A directive does have the power of law and the authority for people to disperse if something is seen.

He also said he did not want to create a shelter-in-place environment statewide or around the state.

State health officials are also working to accelerate the licensing process for nurses and medical personnel in the state to help with the issue.

Arkansas Veterans Affairs Secretary Col. Nate Todd said his office has been working with area medical centers and that the VA has testing capabilities for COVID-19.

Hutchinson also commended lawmakers who met Thursday in Little Rock in a special session to address a $353.1 million shortfall in the state budget due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

We’ve created a list of resources for Mid-Southerns impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.