Arkansas has five new "presumptive" cases of the coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson confirmed Thursday He also announced schools are being closed in Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Grant counties.
During a press conference at the Capitol, Hutchinson said people connected to those cases, plus one announced Wednesday, have made contacts in Pulaski, Jefferson, Saline and Grant counties. Presumptive cases have been confirmed by state testing, but a second test is warranted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those results have not been returned yet.
"The last 48 hours has been a whirlwind," Hutchinson said. "Out of an abundance of caution… the schools in those four counties should be closed for the next two weeks."
Health officials said that four of the five new presumptive cases had contact with Wednesday’s confirmed Pine Bluff patient. A fifth patient came in contact with a coronavirus patient in another state. Some of the cases involve children, but none of the new patients are requiring hospitalization at this time.
"They’re all at home," Nate Smith, Secretary of Health, said.
As of midday Thursday, 135 people are being monitored in the state of Arkansas, health officials said. That does not mean that all have coronavirus, but they either have symptoms or have come in contact with coronavirus patients and could be susceptible.
Smith said he couldn’t give an exact number of how many tests have been administered by the state, but capability has nearly doubled from last week’s roughly 20 test kits at a time.
"Resources are not the issue," Smith said. "Availability of the assets we need is the greatest issue." He said that includes the preventative equipment necessary for health care workers to interact with potential virus patients.
Smith said more capacity was needed for screening, not test kits.
“At this point, capacity means more sites that can collect those specimens and send them off to a lab… that’s where the bottleneck is right now,” he said.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced Thursday afternoon it was moving all classes online, effective immediately. The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville also suspended all in-person classes because of health concerns due to the coronavirus.
Other colleges have also cancelled classes, while many events that had been planned are being cancelled or postponed.