Gov. announces “COVID-19 Winter task force," after setting another new record of active cases

Taskforce members include key hospital CEOs from all over the state, including Chris Barber with St. Bernards.

FULL BRIEFING 11/13: Gov. Hutchinson COVID-19 task force announcement - new daily record of cases

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday a newly created “COVID-19 Winter task force.” It comes a day after Hutchinson warned the state faced “difficult decisions” should hospitals run out of space because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Hutchinson’s announcement comes as the state sets a new record in active COVID-19 cases in 24 hours with 2,312 new cases.

State health officials also released numbers late Friday to show an increase in total active cases.

As of Friday, Arkansas had 15,773 total active cases, up 1,282 from Thursday.

Craighead County was fourth in the state in new cases, with 128.

Pulaski County was first with 213, followed by Benton County with 148 and Washington County with 142.

Hutchinson signed an executive order to create the Governor’s COVID-19 Winter Task Force.

He says members will look at hospital capacity around the state, what more can be done to manage it, and what relief can be provided by the state.

The task force will examine 4 things:

  • 1) How can we better coordinate COVID caseload statewide?
  • 2) What additional steps make sense when it comes to the mask mandate?
  • 3) How can we reduce the number of high cases and reduce hospital numbers?
  • 4) How can we increase resources to hospital staff?

Taskforce members include key hospital CEOs from all over the state, including Chris Barber with St. Bernards.

Greg Bledsoe will vice-chair, and the Governor will chair the task force.

The task force will meet this Monday at 8 a.m. in a closed working session meeting.

Hutchinson said it will not be public.

Hutchinson also authorized 30 Arkansas National Guardsmen to assist with contact tracing. Hutchinson said, “Contacting tracing is “overloaded again” and we need their help.”

Hutchinson said, “Emphasis has to be on what works, wear masks, social distance, “watch the Thanksgiving” gatherings. We’ll ask if there’s anything additional we can do.”

Earlier this week, the state set yet another new record in the number of cases with nearly 2,000 new infections in one day.

According to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the state is outpacing the rest of the nation in the number of cases per 100,000 people.

The Arkansas Department of Health reports 2,144 people have died since the outbreak began.

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