Governor Asa Hutchinson

Press conference March 14


Victoria Stewart-Meyers, City Editor

Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the state at a press conference  today with an update on the COVID-19 situation in Arkansas. Twelve previously presumptive cases of the virus have now been confirmed. He said the Arkansas National Guard has been activated to assist the Public Health team and provide EMT support.


Secretary,  Dr. Nathanial Smith of the Arkansas Department of Health said the three new positive cases are healthcare workers who were in contact with the first patient in pine bluff. He said they are not hospitalized. 

Smith said, the testing priority is first: known contacts to known cases then second; those who have severe illness consistent with COVID-19 in other parts of the state and finally third: “as we have the ability” high risk patients who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.


Governor Hutchinson returned to the microphone to say there are 12 positive cases- but believes there are other “cases we can’t confirm without testing.”


UAMS Chancellor, Dr. Cam Patterson, said that hospitals across the state are in constant communication with each other with the healthcare system “functioning well under the stress” working at a “heroic level” and said that Arkansas hospitals have the “ability to take care of all the patients.”


Dr. Smith spoke of a “Bottleneck related to testing” mentioning that at this time 20 patients can be tested per day with a “protracted turnaround time” however he is working with manufacturers to bring additional testing kits and machines to Arkansas within the next week or so to decrease the wait to a 6 hour turn around.


He said there is another “bottleneck” in terms of well people coming to emergency rooms and clinics saying, “if you are concerned, but well enough to stay at home, stay at home.” is available for free and has screened over 300 patients over the last  24 hours. The telephone screening hotline is 800-632-4502. 


Dr. Smith reminds us that hospitals are still providing full services to all patients so please be patient. 


The governor expressed appreciation to the public for taking social distancing measures seriously, and reiterated that the current testing limitations we have are “national limitations, not Arkansas limitations.” The CDC and Vice President [Joe Biden] are working diligently to address.