Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor gives update in El Dorado on state’s response


EL DORADO, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith, and Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston traveled to El Dorado Monday to give an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus.

Matthew Shepherd, Speaker of the Arkansas House, said he invited the governor to visit El Dorado after the announcement was made last week of Murphy Oil relocating to Houston. Shepard said El Dorado is still here and there are still good things going on in the city, including Murphy USA, which has more than 600 employees and growing. Shepard said El Dorado will bounce back.

State officials say as of Monday afternoon, there are 4,043 cumulative cases of the virus in the state.

That is an increase of 59 cases since Saturday.

Six of those new cases are in the prison system, according to state officials.

State officials say 61 people are in an Arkansas hospital due to the virus and 11 people are on ventilators.

There have been four additional deaths, according to state officials, bringing the state’s death toll to 94.

According to the governor over 1,500 tests were done Saturday and 1,200 tests were done Sunday.

According to Dr. Smith, 3,149 people have recovered from the virus in the state.

Dr. Smith said in the Monday press conference that 49 nursing homes have at least one resident or staff member test positive for the coronavirus. As of Monday, 289 nursing home residents and 172 workers have tested positive for the virus, according to Smith.

Preston announced Monday that 100,000 unemployment insurance checks will go out this week.

Preston also said Monday that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system is up and running. According to Preston, 23,000 people have filed claims so far. Preston says he hopes checks will be out in the next couple of weeks.

The commerce secretary also said there were 12,300 applications filed for Arkansas Ready for Business grants which equaled about $147.7 million, and officials are going through applications. According to Preston, 94 percent of the applications filed were for businesses with 50 or fewer employees and 46 percent were for women or minority-owned businesses.

Governor Hutchinson said he had heard some distressing news over the weekend about places that were not following the guidelines. According to the governor, a concert that is scheduled for Friday violates directives since large venues are not authorized to open until May 18. The governor also said the concert’s plans were not approved. As far as stories of businesses not enforcing social distancing measures, the governor called on business leaders to lead by example. The governor also said he asked State Park Rangers to remind visitors to not congregate in large groups. The governor said he called regional offices of stores that did not appear to following the guidelines.

Dr. Smith said his department works with groups to bring them into compliance. Smith said that usually works, but in cases where it doesn’t, businesses could either have their license revoked or be shut down if they’re licensed through the Department of Health or businesses could be sent a cease and desist letter if they’re not licensed through ADH.

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