PINE BLUFF, Ark. — When COVID-19 first surfaced, all eyes were focused on Pine Bluff, specifically Jefferson regional medical center, where patient zero was being treated.

At Jefferson Regional Medical Center is where Arkansas saw its first documented case of COVID-19.

One year later the situation is improving, but the fight still carries on.

Governor Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency for Arkansas one year ago today.

Thusrday he spoke in Pine Bluff to reflect on the last year.

“It was our emergency, on the same day I declared a public health emergency and we went to work we went to work and we’ve been at work for the last year,” said Gov. Hutchinson.

He also honored the staff at JRMC and said they have been instrumental in showing the rest of the state how to combat the virus.

Many staff leaders reflected on the past year, as caregivers and as patients themselves.

“It’s been an unbelievably tough year for all of us, but after seeing this pandemic both as a caregiver and patient, I have never been more proud to represent our hospital,” said Kathleen Bottoms.

Governor Hutchinson offered his encouragement and said the numbers are trending in the right direction but there is still much work to be done despite.

“We want that day where the pandemic ends in that day will come.” Gov. Hutchinson said.

The Governor also announced that the forestry division of the Department of Agriculture will donate 10,000 oak tree saplings for anyone to plant in memory of a loved one lost or to dedicate to someone.

He said he will plant one on the Governor’s Mansion grounds to honor those lost by the pandemic.