Arkansas COVID-19

Reports and programming on coronavirus disease 2019 and its impact on Arkansas.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a delayed response from the federal government is to blame for a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases at an Arkansas prison.

This comes as a total of 3,496 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Arkansas, while 83 have died from COVID-19.

Speaking in his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Hutchinson said the number of inmates and staff testing positive at the Federal Correctional Institution, Forrest City has increased by 92, for a total of 264 cases.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is allowing places of worship and large outdoor venues to reopen today as 81 people in Arkansas have died from COVID-19.

Hutchinson announced at a daily press briefing Monday the state had seen five new deaths from the disease along with a total of 3,458 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

As gyms and fitness centers also reopen Monday, and with hair salons and restaurants set to reopen by next week, Hutchinson said he does expect some new infections to result from a loosening of restrictions on businesses.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Department of Corrections says two more state prison inmates who were being treated for the coronavirus have died.

Department spokesman Solomon Graves says the cause of their deaths will be determined by medical officials, but that both inmates who died Sunday at the Cummins unit were being treated for COVID-19.

State health officials earlier confirmed the deaths of two other inmates at Cummins, where at least 860 prisoners have tested positive.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson showing a face mask with the logo for Oaklawn while noting Saturday was Derby Day 2020 at the Hot Springs racetrack.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The death toll from COVID-19 in Arkansas has risen to 73, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday. Of the nine new deaths since Friday, two were state prison inmates from the Cummins Unit, which has been hard hit during the outbreak.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health, said both men had been hospitalized, were in their 60s and had underlying health conditions. One of the prisoners had been on a ventilator.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Barbershops and hair salons in Arkansas can reopen by next Wednesday as the state continues to ease restrictions on businesses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday came as a total of 3,321 people had tested positive for the virus in the state, while 64 people have died from COVID-19.

Speaking with reporters at a daily briefing, Hutchinson said other cosmetology-related businesses can reopen on May 6.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas is lifting restrictions on gyms put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak as the state’s total number of deaths from COVID-19 rises to 61.

Hutchinson announced an increase of 63 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths at a briefing Thursday, saying 3,255 people have tested positive for the virus in the state.

University of Arkansas medical researcher Dr. Morten Jensen
University of Arkansas

Dr. Morten Jensen, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, came to the University of Arkansas in 2015 with help from a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Research Alliance. Now he’s helped design a clear acrylic box that can protect local clinicians when they intubate patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Downtown Little Rock
Wikimedia Commons

In order to further combat the coronavirus pandemic, the City of Little Rock is launching a series of services, including a testing site this Saturday at the Southwest Community Center off of Baseline Road.

Announcing the initiatives during a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said while the city continues its effort to contain COVID-19, it’s also important to focus on how the virus is impacting minority communities and to provide needed assistance.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says restaurants in Arkansas can resume limited dine-in service in less than two weeks as the state’s death toll from COVID-19 increases by seven.

He made the announcement at a daily press briefing Wednesday, saying 59 people have died while 3,192 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Governor's Office / YouTube

The daily increase in new coronavirus cases has risen again in Arkansas as state officials prepare to loosen restrictions on recreational activities.

In his daily press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said 94 additional people had tested positive, bringing the total number of cases to 3,111. Two more people also died from COVID-19 bringing the overall death toll in the state to 52.

Despite the increases, Hutchinson said the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Arkansas appears to be leveling off.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson thanked Walmart and Quest Diagnostics at a briefing Monday for opening a drive-thru coronavirus testing site at 2700 S. Shackleford Road in Little Rock coronavirus testing COVID-19
David Monteith / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the percentage of Arkansans testing positive for the coronavirus is on the decline as the number of total cases in the state tops 3,000. He announced Monday that the state has 3,017 total cases, while an additional person has died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 50.

Though the number of cases and deaths continue to rise, Hutchinson said in his daily press briefing that the state will soon be ready to lift restrictions on businesses.

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson warns “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic closes packing plants and backs up the animal supply.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” Tyson, grandson of the company founder, wrote in a full-page ad published by several major U.S. newspapers on Sunday. ”There will be a limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday that traditional high school graduation ceremonies will not be allowed prior to July 1. Arkansas Department of Education officials also are reviewing options in the event it is not safe to fully open schools in the fall.

The governor and Education Secretary Johnny Key said during Saturday’s COVID-19 press conference they know the delay is disappointing to many, but is necessary for public safety.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has seen three consecutive days of rising daily increases in new coronavirus cases as officials prepare to loosen some restrictions put in place due to the pandemic.

In his daily briefing Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state has 2,741 cases and one more death from COVID-19, bringing the total to 46. Of the total cases, 1,763 are considered active with 104 people hospitalized and 25 on a ventilator.

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd during a brief speech Friday after being elected to another term leading the House.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) was reelected Friday to another two-year term leading the chamber. Representatives unanimously showed their support for Shepherd during a voice vote after formally adjourning the biennial fiscal session of legislature. He was unopposed.

Shepherd became a state representative in 2011 and was first elected speaker in 2018. The next term will begin next January when lawmakers convene for the 93rd General Assembly.

Arkansas Cinema Society

While movie theaters remain closed due to social distancing measures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Arkansas Cinema Society is partnering with several local organizations to present a series of documentaries for patrons to watch online.

Governor's Test Surge Announcement Surprises Arkansas Hospitals

Apr 24, 2020
Health care providers offer COVID-19 testing at a drive-through at Baptist Health in Little Rock.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Faced with mounting criticism about the limited amount of COVID-19 testing in the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday afternoon announced plans for a “testing surge” across the state on Friday and Saturday. But many hospitals in the state were not informed about the surge before the governor’s announcement, and some say they may not have the testing capacity to meet a spike in demand.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is urging all Arkansans with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested within the next two days as the total number of coronavirus cases in the state increased Thursday to 2,465. That's 189 additional cases since Wednesday, along with three more deaths for a total of 45.

Hutchinson announced the statewide Arkansas Surge Campaign in his daily briefing, saying uninsured residents should not hesitate to get tested if they have symptoms, including fever, tiredness and a dry cough.

“If they want to get a test, they get a test. Period,” Hutchinson said.

Little Rock Port Authority Port of Little Rock
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Little Rock Port Authority is seeing a decrease in shipping volume not only because of the coronavirus pandemic, but also due to record low oil prices.

Bryan Day is the executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority. He says the port authority itself as well as other private businesses have seen an impact in the past few months.

Stock Photo

Shoppers looking for certain groceries like beef or eggs might have had trouble buying those products during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the lack of food in aisles is due to a change in the supply chain and not a shortage.

John Anderson is the head of the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Department at the University of Arkansas. He says the abrupt closings of restaurants due to the outbreak caused a major shift in where food was delivered.

"We went virtually overnight to no restaurant trade, no food service trade," Anderson said.

Steuart Walton, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, at his office in Bentonville on Wednesday. He says the group will look at ways to restart business activity in the state without causing additional health challenges.
Talk Business & Politics

Steuart Walton has a message for citizens who may be eager to reopen the state’s economy sooner rather than later.

“They’re not alone,” Walton said. “I think everybody is at some level of that feeling.”

Governor's Office / YouTube

The Arkansas Department of Health is lifting restrictions on elective surgeries shortly after a federal appeals court ruled the state could ban non-emergency surgical abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said clinics can resume minor surgeries on April 27, but must require all patients to have completed a test for COVID-19 two days prior to the procedure.

Little Rock Zoo Playground
Little Rock Zoo

With Arkansans practicing social distancing, and unnecessary travel discouraged,  Arkansas tourism has taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many tourism destinations shut down indefinitely. 

Travis Napper is the director of Tourism for Arkansas and says tourism has "screeched to a halt" due to the pandemic.

"That’s for, right now the safety of our visitors, the safety of our locals. That comes first before any recovery of tourism," Napper said.

A federal appeals court says Arkansas can suspend abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit accuses Arkansas of violating the constitutional and legal rights of prison inmates by not taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The class-action complaint was filed Tuesday on behalf of 11 inmates at state prisons, including three at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas, where 670 inmates have tested positive.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has seen its largest two-day increase in positive coronavirus test results, bringing the total number of cases to 2,227 and the total deaths from COVID-19 to 43.

In his daily press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state added 304 new coronavirus cases, with 262 of those at the Cummins Unit near Pine Bluff. As of late Monday, 670 inmates and 10 prison staff have tested positive for the virus.

A group of medical professionals is asking death penalty states, including Arkansas, for medications used both for lethal injections and to help coronavirus patients who are on ventilators.

But a doctor who's behind the request and a death penalty expert say secrecy surrounding executions could hinder their efforts.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Inmates at a state prison account for roughly one-third of all Arkansas coronavirus cases as the state’s death toll from COVID-19 rises to 42.

In his daily briefing on the pandemic Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state has seen a total of 1,923 positive coronavirus test results, an increase of 142 from Sunday. Two additional patients died from the virus, while 93 were hospitalized and 24 were on a ventilator.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens Sunday as Department of Corrections Director Dexter Payne discusses the outbreak at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of coronavirus deaths in Arkansas increased to 40 on Sunday, including – for the first time – a health care worker.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Department of Health, said it was someone who worked at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and was associated with the first outbreak in the state. Another death announced Sunday involved a nursing home resident, Smith said. He did not offer any additional details, other than to say both were under the age of 65.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Saturday announced the creation of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, which is charged with making recommendations on how best to return the state’s economy to normal following the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The recommendations must be consistent with public health requirements, Hutchinson said, while creating confidence among state residents. The announcement came one day after the governor announced a May 4 target date to begin “Phase 1” reopening of the state's economy.