WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (KNWA) – Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health announced Tuesday there were no new cases of the coronavirus.
The total number of cases in Arkansas as of Tuesday morning is 22.
Dr. Nate Smith said nearly 200 tests have come back negative.
As the governor visited West Memphis, he said that they are monitoring coronavirus cases in neighboring Tennessee. According to Governor Hutchinson, there are two cases of coronavirus in Memphis, but both are travel related.
Dr. Nate Smith said the cases in eastern Arkansas are connected to the first confirmed coronavirus patient in Pine Bluff.
Hutchinson said six of the confirmed cases are healthcare workers connected to the first patient in Pine Bluff.
Dr. Smith said Little Rock had a case of community transmission, but it has not “exploded.” There is no other case of community transmission in Arkansas.
The governor said there is a need for more testing, and as the testing capability increases, the number of cases will increase.
“COVID-19 is an invisible storm,” Dr. Smith said.
The governor also warned that people might need to prepare for some time.
During the press conference, the governor raised concerns of a healthcare worker shortage and the availability of personal protective equipment. Hutchinson said the challenge is long-term for healthcare workers due to long hours.
Hutchinson also urged Arkansans to stop panic buying, saying the supply chain is continuing in the state. The governor also said grocery stores are and will be open.
Hutchinson said he directed all three casinos in the state to cease operations for two weeks. He said he is aware that it could create hardship for eastern Arkansas.
The governor said the state is taking steps to ease hardships. The governor said state officials are working to cut the delay for unemployment insurance from two weeks to one week, and waiving the in-person application. Hutchinson also requested the work requirement to be waived.
Hutchinson said filing for unemployment insurance online will be safer and quicker.
To file for unemployment insurance online, click here. Applying by phone is also an option.
Mike Preston, the Secretary of Commerce, said the trust fund was in excellent condition to help those impacted. Preston also said officials are working on packages for businesses, but said more information would come later.
The governor also mentioned the statewide school closures, which was mandatory Tuesday. Schools will re-open March 30. Hutchinson said the state will continue to follow CDC guidelines when it comes to the operation of schools. The governor said education will go on.
Hutchinson mentioned his recommendation to limit public events to 50 people or less.
Hutchinson said he’s proud of how Arkansans have been supporting each other “neighbor to neighbor”. The governor said while Arkansans have been keeping social distance, they have also been loving each other.