Hutchinson says more ventilators are on the way, COVID-19 cases in state up 61 to 584

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during his daily COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday. / Screen capture

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was a few minutes late to his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday after a call with Vice President Mike Pence ran long, he said.

Hutchinson said that during the call with the VP, he raised the need for more ventilators in the state, and was assured that they were on the way.

“He gave us confidence that when we need ventilators that we’re going to have ventilators,” Hutchinson said.

The governor said that cases of the virus inside the state of Arkansas increased to 584 as of Wednesday afternoon, up 61 since yesterday.

Hutchinson said 56 of those who have tested positive for the virus are currently hospitalized, with 25 currently on ventilators. There were two additional deaths in the state due to the virus, for a total of 10.

Testing has also steadily increased in Arkansas, Hutchinson said, with 65 new tests by UAMS, 147 by the state Department of Health, and 691 new tests conducted by commercial labs.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said that of the patients who have tested positive so far, 18 are children, 170 are adults 65 or older, and 396 are aged 18-64. Eight are pregnant women, 50 have diabetes, 40 have heart disease, 26 have chronic lung disease, 12 have chronic kidney disease, one has chronic liver disease, and 18 are immunocompromised.

Eighty four of the positive cases are healthcare workers, up five from yesterday.

The 56 who are currently hospitalized are down by eight from yesterday. Forty two people have recovered from the virus, up seven from yesterday. Both of the individuals who died since yesterday were over the age of 65, Smith said.

New drive thru testing facility coming to Bentonville

Hutchinson announced that Walmart, the State of Arkansas, and Quest Laboratories have partnered to create a pilot for a new drive-thru testing facility in Bentonville.

The new lab will focus on first responders and healthcare workers that show symptoms, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said Walmart has been working on the project nationally, but wanted to bring one of their pilot projects to their home state.

If all goes well, he said, the hope is to expand these facilities to other parts of the state soon.

Governor recommends restrictions on state parks, temporary closure of Buffalo National River park

Hutchinson reiterated the concerns he expressed on Tuesday about an influx of out-of-state visitors to state parks who aren’t practicing social distancing in a manner consistent with recommendations from health officials.

The governor said Secretary of Parks Stacy Hurst has recommended limiting visits to state parks to daytime trips only, restricting overnight access to campgrounds and lodging facilities, restricting parking to limit some access to the parks, and to allow park rangers to enforce social distancing guideline in the parks for now.

The governor said he is recommending closing the Buffalo National River National Park for now. That decision will ultimately be made by the secretary of the interior, he said.