Arkansas unemployment numbers rising with spread of COVID-19 - ADH 3/22 update

WATCH: Gov. Hutchinson’s March 22 briefing on COVID-19 in Arkansas
Updated: Mar. 22, 2020 at 6:18 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Saying he’s never seen a global economic downturn like this in his life, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the last several days 8 to 10,000 Arkansans have filed for unemployment.

He said there might be even more if the system was working properly.

The state, according to labor officials, will begin working 24/7 on processing unemployment benefits, both online and through its hotline.

The hotline will be up and running on Monday. Those seeking unemployment benefits can call 1-844-908-2178.

“Our system wasn’t designed for this,” Hutchinson said.

COVID-19 positive cases in Arkansas as of 12:45 p.m. March 21
COVID-19 positive cases in Arkansas as of 12:45 p.m. March 21(Source: Arkansas Department of Health)

This revelation also comes as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus made its largest single-day jump from 118 to 165.

Hutchinson released those numbers during Sunday’s daily COVID-19 briefing from the Department of Health in Little Rock.

Of those testing positive, Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Department of Health, said that 10 were children, 93 were 19-64 years of age, and 62 were 65 and older.

More women than men have tested positive by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.

Forty-four nursing home workers and residents have now tested positive for COVID-19, Smith said. The greatest number is at Briarwood in Little Rock where 35 residents and 6 staff members have tested positive.

Smith pointed to the increase in testing corresponding with the increase in positive and negative results.

“Two weeks ago we were testing 5-10 people a day,” Smith said. “Yesterday we tested 139 people.”

Beginning Monday, UAMS will begin testing for COVID-19.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson echoed Smith’s prognosis: “As we increase testing capacity, the number of cases will increase.”

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