A significant increase in positive cases since Wednesday was part of Hutchinson’s Thursday daily COVID-19 news conference. Hutchinson also presented an outline and schedule for reopening team sports participation and reopening overnight summer camps in the state.
The reopening of the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website was announced.
Less-than-civil responses to face mask requirements by business customers was also discussed, as was a possible infection complications when children are infected by COVID-19.
Hutchinson was joined by Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith, head of Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force Steuart Walton, and UAMS pediatrician and infectious disease specialist, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr. Jose Romero.
Arkansas had a single-day increase of 455 new cases, bringing the total number to 5,458 infections recorded in the state. An additional seven have been hospitalized since Wednesday, bringing that total to 86 with 14 on ventilators, down two since Wednesday. Three additional deaths in the state bring that total to 110.
Thursday records 3,915 have recovered, an increase in that number of 63 since Wednesday. Of the 1,433 cases currently recorded as active, 543 are in corrections facilities, 94 in nursing homes and 796 in the communities of Arkansas. Active cases are approaching the April peak, Hutchinson said.
(A slight difference between overall totals and active and recovered case totals was earlier attributed to a lag created during data entry.)
Currently 330 clients and 197 staff are infected in state nursing homes, each of those numbers showing an increase in two since Wednesday.
Since Wednesday, 2,216 tests have been performed, which the governor called “a good number” on track with the state’s goal of 60,000 tests in May.
The 455 new cases is a single-day record, exceeding the previous 300 -plus cases for a single day in April. Smith said the numbers “are of course a concern” but they did not show a biological phenomenon of an infection breakout in a single location. The news cases were scattered across the state, he said, with the largest number being 33 from Yell County, 26 from Washington County, 27 from Benton County and so forth.
During questions, Smith broke it down further that the Yell County outbreak was related to a poultry processing plant there, the majority of the group found infected having traveled together in a van as a team for disinfecting the facility.
Smith said the health department continued to gather information and identify infection patterns.
With the words “Let’s play ball this summer,” teams sports will be able to reconvene with restrictions on June 1, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in his daily COVID-19 briefing. This will be for grades K-12 and does not apply to collegiate athletics.
Ticket sales online if possible
Team practice, competition prohibited for close contact sports like basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, soccer and martial arts
Individual practice with own equipment is permitted
Conditioning and training is okay with limited group size and distancing
Cheerleading and dance may practice under gym directive restrictions
Practice, competition allowed for limited contact team sports like baseball, softball, track, gymnastics, swimming
Physical distancing whenever possible
Use own equipment / disinfect any that is shared
Participation is discourage for those over 65 or who have underlying health issues
Physical distancing except during sports activity
Athletes, coaches and staff asked about fever, symptoms and exposure
Temperature checks for coaches and staffing
Face coverings for everyone 10 years and older
Athletes can removed face coverings during active sports activity
Coaches and staff must wear face coverings at all times
Showers are prohibited and locker rooms are used only for storage
Frequent sanitizing of equipment and facilities
Avoid huddles, high fives and any non sport related contact
Directives for gyms applied to training facilities
Directives for venues and dining apply to athletic event facilities
“I’m delighted we can play some ball even under challenging circumstances,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said he was looking forward to playing some baseball with family this weekend, although each would have their own basketball and there would be no five-on-five play.
The reopening of overnight-stay summer camps will go into effect May 31, with early arrival permitted for counselors. Details of the guidelines for this were not presented at the conference, with Smith directing any questions about details to the department of health website.
Summer camps are “some of our most complex directives,” Smith said, requiring detailed requirements.
The state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website was reopened, the governor announced. The site had been shut down last Friday shortly after its opening due to a security issue which had been classified by the governor as a “breach.”
The website is designed to provide relief for freelance and gig-economy workers impacted by the pandemic. Emails had been sent to applicants telling them to apply, and since going back online 5,975 payments have been sent out, with 1,879 debit card payments expected to go out soon, Hutchinson said.
“The website is secure and the website is operational,” Hutchinson said, thanking the state information technology workers who worked night and weekends to restore the website’s function after the breach.
Hutchinson was asked about a Benton restaurant that had reopened, and then closed when customers there refused to wear masks as required by state guidelines.
Hutchinson relayed a story of going out to eat at a restaurant over the weekend where the manager asked the governor to remind people that the requirement to leave masks on until food or drinks are served is per state guidelines. Table staff was being cursed at by customers who did not want to wear masks, the manager the governor.
“If you don’t want to dine and go in there that’s your decision,” Hutchinson said, “Don’t blame it on the owner of the restaurant.”
The governor reminded that wearing masks is not done to protect the person wearing the mask, but to protect others.
“It’s not about your health,” the governor said, “It’s about everybody else’s around you.”
The governor called Walton to the podium, who had earlier talked about the cooperation between business and public health in coming to terms with the pandemic.
On masks, Walton said: “It’s something you do for other people, it’s not something you do for yourself.”
Walton reminded that the virus “was real” and it was important to reduce case numbers.
Romero discussed new information from the Centers for Disease Control on a possible complication for children infected by COVID-19. While children have shown to be less-likely to be affected by COVID-19 symptoms, those who are may exhibit “Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome,” he said.
The syndrome is an inflammation of organs throughout the body, such as brain, heart, liver and kidneys, Romero said, with over 200 cases found to date by CDC.
More cases are expected, Romero said.
Treatment is available using the same treatment as for Kawasaki syndrome, and has proven successful, the doctor said.
No cases of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome have been recorded in Arkansas yet, Romero said, but a physician should be contacted if any symptoms are seen.