Governor confirms first case of coronavirus in Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith (left) discuss the first case of coronavirus in Arkansas.

Photo courtesy Arkansas Governor’s Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday confirmed the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Arkansas.

The patient is currently in isolation at a hospital in Pine Bluff. Officials said the person is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling outside Arkansas but within the United States.

Hutchinson also signed an executive order declaring a public health emergency to facilitate coordination and provide increased support to state agencies that are involved in responding to the virus.

From the governor:

For months, Arkansas has been well prepared to respond to COVID-19. More than two months ago, the Arkansas Department of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Nathaniel Smith, designated more than 70 of its employees to work exclusively on COVID-19. The team has worked tirelessly to coordinate our state’s response to a potential COVID-19 outbreak. Today, I also asked each of my Cabinet secretaries to prepare a continuity of operation plan in the event of an outbreak of the virus. I have also been in frequent communication with Vice President Mike Pence, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and numerous other governors for updates and information.

Hutchinson said the State is taking measures to respond to the case “appropriately and swiftly” so that information and resources are available for residents.

But, he said, the best way residents can protect themselves is by practicing healthy habits, like washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, and staying close to home if they’re not feeling well.