While Arkansas still does not have a confirmed case of the coronavirus, Little Rock city officials are preparing for the impact of its eventual spread.
In a news conference at City Hall Tuesday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. announced the creation of a COVID-19 Task Force, comprised of physicians and representatives of the city’s major hospitals.
Scott said, while Little Rock already has a plan to ensure city services continue in the event of a widespread outbreak, the task force’s recommendations would go beyond city government.
“We want to ensure that we maintain a vibrant economy. We will maintain all great tourism and attraction[s] that we've always continued to aspire to have here in this great city, and by doing so, we want to continue to over-communicate and demonstrate our over-preparedness for the City of Little Rock,” Scott said.
The task force, chaired by physician and City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris, will begin meeting early next week. The announcement comes a day after state public health officials directed nursing and long-term care facilities to screen all visitors and staff for symptoms of COVID-19.
Dr. Gary Wheeler, senior medical advisor to the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said people should begin to limit social interaction along with practicing good hygiene.
“If you know someone's ill, stay away from them. We recommend at least six feet distance between someone who may be ill and someone who's not,” Wheeler said. “It's really important to practice this now. We do not have community spread in-state, [to] be honest we expect that we will at some point given the example that we're seeing in other countries and other states around.”
According to Scott, three people in the state are currently under investigation for having the virus, with 103 people traveling and being monitored by the Health Department.
Dr. Stephen Mette, CEO of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said UAMS now offers an online portal to help screen for COVID-19.
“That will connect one to a healthcare provider, a nurse practitioner or physician, where screening questions can be discussed and advice given on whether there are any subsequent steps that need to be taken,” Mette said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, all of Arkansas’s neighboring states have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with the exception of Mississippi.