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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave his COVID-19 update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in Forrest City on Monday, May 18. Hutchinson was joined by Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith.  In opening comments Hutchinson stated that 550 tests were given in Forrest City, which is the more extensive testing done within a single city. The Governor said they do not yet have all results from the 550 tested, but they do have 290 and only 24 were positive.

At press deadline, there was a total of  5,003 positive cumulative COVID-19 cases in the state of Arkansas from a total of 87,614 who have been tested. There have been 1,044 active cases, 3,852 recoveries and 107 deaths in the state.

In the last 24-hours, 2329 tests were completed with a statewide positive rate of 2.8% and have 78 have been hospitalized. Hutchinson reported the average of cases per week is 58. There is currently an uptick in hospitalization with an increase of 12 from Sunday to Monday, but Hutchinson shared that the numbers are “well below the peak.”

During the conference, Hutchinson announced that restaurant bars can reopen on May 19 and free-standing or stand-alone bars can reopen May 26. Specific guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health are forthcoming. Dr. Smith said that bar directives will be similar to directives for restaurants. All bars are licensed and will be expected to follow the guidelines. “As we move forward, they will continue to have distancing, etc. in their guidance, but will depend more and more on people taking individual action to protect themselves and their families. The state will be focusing more on testing and contact tracing and less on regulatory mandates,” explained Smith.

Over the weekend, Arkansas officials announced the Arkansas Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website experienced a security breach Friday. The Governor said he learned about it from his office staff and they took action. But the site had been taken down by the time he knew about it. This matter is being investigated by the FBI. It is his understanding that the data was exploited. DWS staff worked over the weekend and have an expert coming in to certify that it is safe. They do not believe the data was manipulated, just exploited which means data was seen.

When meeting with national leaders on Wednesday, May 20, Hutchinson will reiterate the measures Arkansas has taken in re-opening and explain the operation of the state during the crisis. Hutchinson added he will also be speaking about the 60-plus food processing plants in Arkansas and their importance to the nation’s food chain. 

With the Memorial Day holiday this weekend, Hutchinson stressed the importance of keeping safe and staying socially distanced to enjoy themselves. For specific directives on State Parks visit the  ADH website.

Polk County has two active positive COVID-19 results with seven recovered totaling 9 total positive cases and a total of 378 negative test results according to the Arkansas Department of Health website. 

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