WATCH: Governor says Arkansas may not see COVID-19 peak for 6-8 weeks

Gov. Hutchinson’s March 21 briefing on COVID-19
Updated: Mar. 21, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - With 22 new positive cases reported within the last 24 hours, Governor Asa Hutchinson said Saturday, during a press briefing in the state capitol, that Arkansas may not see a peak in COVID-19 cases for 6 to 8 weeks.

The governor was joined by several familiar faces, including Dr. Nathaniel Smith, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health; and Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS in Little Rock.

During what as become a daily press briefing, the governor announced that there are now 118 positive cases of the coronavirus. He said Sebastian is the latest county to report a positive case of COVID-19.

Before turning the floor over to Dr. Smith, the governor revealed that the state is far from seeing a peak in the number of cases.

“From looking at other states and projections that we can make here, and these are our best estimates, Arkansas is likely to reach the peak of COVID-19 spread in six to eight weeks,” Hutchinson said. “At the peak, we are likely to see 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.”

The governor went to say that such a number would strain the state’s “hospitals, our medical system, our economy, and it endangers lives.”

He said the state’s goal is to “flatten the peak,” and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is where we need everyone’s help,” Hutchinson said. “We have asked the public to engage in social distancing. We have asked you to engage in screening if you’re involved in a business so that you can better protect the employees. And to avoid unnecessary travel.”

He urged Arkansans to observe these “common sense” measures for their own benefit and others. He also advised groups of no greater than 10.

“If we are successful in this effort, as Arkansans, then we don’t have to do what other states have done, which is shelter in place, lose more jobs, and more extreme measures” he said.

Admitting that these are all hardships, he added: “We do it for our neighbor. We do it for the elderly. And we do it for our state and nation.”

The governor concluded by saying: “Let’s embrace life and get through this together.”

The governor then deferred to Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the ADH, who reiterated the current number of 118 positive cases. Of those, he said, nine are children, 18 and under; 32 seniors, ages 65 and up; and 77 adults, ages 19-64.

Again, he said the number of cases is evenly balanced between females and males.

Broken down by race/ethnicity, 21 percent are African-American and 68 percent are white, the remaining are “other.”

Thirteen of the 118 patients are hospitalized, he said. Seven have required ICU admission, four have been on a ventilator at some point in their hospital treatment.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson said that the state’s hospitals are “managing well,” however there is stress over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The governor said, “surprisingly,” the state’s revenues should be fine in March.

“But, April, May, and June, the projections are we could take a $100 million-plus hit to general revenues,” he said. “Just simply because sales tax revenue goes down, individual tax payments will go down.”

He also said delaying the tax filing and submission deadline is “a hit as well.”

“That is of concern and something we’re addressing,” he said. “But, there is an economic hit that everybody feels. They’re going to feel it individually, and we’re going to feel it as a state as well.”

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