Coronavirus Roundup: Arkansas reports first positive COVID-19 test; travel-related case in Pine Bluff

March 16-22, 2020

By Daily Record Staff


Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (March 11) confirmed Arkansas’ first presumptive positive case of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, during a press conference at the State Capitol.


The case has been tested positive by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation. No information has yet been released on the individual who has tested positive for the respiratory illness, but that person is currently in isolation in a hospital in Pine Bluff. 


Hutchinson also signed an executive order to declare a public health emergency to facilitate coordination and provide increased support to state agencies that are involved in response to the virus. Hutchinson said the state health officials, under the leadership of Dr. Nathaniel Smith, has designated more than 70 of its employees to work exclusively on COVID-19. 


“The team has worked tirelessly to coordinate our state’s response to a potential COVID-19 outbreak. Today, I also asked each of my Cabinet secretaries to prepare a continuity of operation plan in the event of an outbreak of the virus,” Hutchinson told reporters. “I have also been in frequent communication with Vice President Mike Pence, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and numerous other governors for updates and information.”


“The State is taking measures to respond to the confirmed case appropriately and swiftly so that information and resources are available for Arkansans,” continued Hutchinson. “We are taking every measure to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Arkansas, but the best way to protect yourself from contracting any virus is by practicing healthy habits, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, and staying close to home if you are not feeling well.”


Later during a press conference at state Health Department headquarters, Smith offered that the positive test came from an out-of-state travel-related case but said there is no indication that COVID-19 is spreading in Arkansas communities at this time.


“We are still gathering information,” said the Arkansas Secretary of Health. “At this point we think this might have been acquired from out-of-state travel. We have an on-site team that is focused on identifying others who might have had contact with this individual and we are monitoring for secondary infections.”


Smith continued: “This is not unexpected. There are 35 states that are already reporting infections, including our surroundings states so we have been prepared for this and actively looking for cases.”


-World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also declared on March 11 that “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”


“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said Ghebreyesus. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.


“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” concluded WHO’s chief medical officer.


Following WHO’s pandemic declaration, President Donald Trump on Trump announced in an address to the nation he was suspending all travel from Europe for the next 30 days. Exemptions will be made for Americans who have made appropriate screenings, and those restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom.


Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management revealed that the coronavirus disease has had a dramatic impact business and supply chain impacts.


In survey of U.S. companies, nearly 75% of companies report supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to coronavirus-related transportation restrictions, and more than 80% believe that their organization will experience some impact because of COVID-19 disruptions. Of those, one in six (16%) companies report adjusting revenue targets downward an average of 5.6% due to the coronavirus.


“The story the data tells is that companies are faced with a lengthy recovery to normal operations in the wake of the virus outbreak,” said Thomas Derry, chief executive at ISM. “For a majority of U.S. businesses, lead times have doubled, and that shortage is compounded by the shortage of air and ocean freight options to move product to the United States -- even if they can get orders filled.”


In Central Arkansas, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on March 10 impaneled a COVID-19 Task Force to develop a preparedness plan for Arkansas’ largest city. Besides Scott, that panel includes eight other members primarily from the city’s medical community, included At-large City Councilor Dr. Dean Kumpuris.


Other members of the task force include Dr. Stephen A. Mette, CEO of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Dr. Gary Wheeler, senior medical advisor the Secretary of the state Health Department; Dr. Amanda Novak of Baptist Health; Greg Crain, president of  Baptist Health’s Little Rock campus; Dr. Gerry Jones, chief medical officer at CHI St. Vincent; Adam Head, CEO of CARTI;  and Dr. Jared Capouya, vice president of quality and safety at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.


According to the CDC, there are 938 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to U.S. health officials since January 21, including 29 deaths. To date, 38 states and the District of Columbia have reported positive cases of the respiratory virus. In addition to CDC, many public health laboratories are now testing for the virus that causes COVID-19, including locations in Arkansas.  



  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas
    Pine Bluff, Arkansas