LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (WMC/KAIT) - Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday a new “COVID-19 Winter Task Force” -- a day after he warned that the state was facing “difficult decisions” should hospitals run out of space because of a COVID-19 case surge.
The governor said the state set a new record Friday for single-day case increases -- 2,312 in 24 hours. An additional 21 people were hospitalized, giving the state a record total of 826 COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said.
Hutchinson said the task force is being created with an executive order, and it will focus on monitoring hospital capacity, how to manage it and what relief the state can provide to hospitals and their staff.
The task force will examine four things:
- How can we better coordinate COVID-19 caseloads statewide?
- What additional steps make sense when it comes to the mask mandate?
- How can we reduce the number of high cases and reduce hospital numbers?
- How can we increase resources to hospital staff?
Taskforce members include key hospital CEOs from all over the state, including Chris Barber with St. Bernards.
Greg Bledsoe will vice-chair, and the Governor will chair the task force, which meets for the first time Monday in a closed working session not open to the public.
Hutchinson also authorized 30 Arkansas National Guardsmen to assist with contact tracing.
“Contacting tracing is overloaded again and we need their help," said Hutchinson.
According to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the state is outpacing the rest of the nation in the number of cases per 100,000 people.
The Arkansas Department of Health reports 2,144 people have died since the outbreak began.