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Governor Sets Nursing Home Testing Goal As Coronavirus Cases Near 5,000

Governor's Office

The number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas communities has increased for a fourth consecutive day as the state nears 5,000 people who have tested positive.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that Arkansas saw two new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 102, while the total number of coronavirus cases has risen to 4,923.

Of the 110 new positive test results in Arkansas on Tuesday, only four were from prison inmates while 106 were from the general public. Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said he doesn’t believe the four-day increase in community cases is a result of businesses reopening in the state.

“Of all of our 1,082 active cases, only three of them had reported being to a restaurant within that incubation period, only six had reported being to a barber shop, 10 to a church, three to a daycare, and four to a gym,” Smith said. “Each of those are 1% or less, so these activities don't appear to be driving our community cases at this point.”

Pulaski, Sevier and St. Francis counties saw the highest influx of new coronavirus cases Tuesday, with six new infections among workers at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility in the Sevier County seat of De Queen.

Smith said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has finished testing at the Federal Correctional Institution, Forrest City where 602 inmates and staff have been infected, though he said those cases are not yet entirely included in the state’s official case tally.

Credit Governor's Office / YouTube
A graph displays the number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas.

Along with his goal to test 2% of the state’s population for the coronavirus by the end of May, Hutchinson announced he also wants to test every resident and employee of nursing homes in Arkansas in June.

“This will result in approximately 40,000 to 50,000 new tests simply by testing staff and nursing home residents next month, in June, in those facilities,” Hutchinson said. “If you add to that, of course, our routine testing, you're going to see a very large number of tests next month here in Arkansas.”

Of the state’s 1,082 active COVID-19 cases, 78 are hospitalized and 14 on a ventilator. 83 of the state’s active cases are nursing home residents, 369 prison inmates and 630 members of the community.

Hutchinson also gave an update on direct payments to workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, saying they should receive a fourth and final payment by Friday.

“It totals over $21 million and this will go to over 8,000 employees in long term care facilities in Arkansas. And I think this is enhanced payments that are well deserved, and we're delighted to get those out the door and in their hands.”

Earlier this month, the state legislature also approved payments for non-physician direct care workers at hospitals, as well as workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities who do not have direct contact with patients.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.
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