201103_COVID-19 Press Briefing
8:59PM Nov 3, 2020
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Secretary Johnny Key (ADE)
Dr. Austin Porter - ADH
Leslie Peacock - Ark Times
Josh White - KAIT
health care workers
Again, it's good to see you in person. Edie.
Thank you for joining me for today's weekly COVID Update, I'm pleased to be joined by Dr. Jose Romero, the Department of Health Secretary Johnny key of the secretary of Department of Education. We also have Solomon graves, our Secretary of department corrections. And then I'm very much appreciative of O'Reilly, who is the executive director of the Arkansas Hospital Association, invited him to make some comments today as well. This, of course, is Election Day, I want to remind everyone to go and vote. And what's encouraging is that what we're trying to demonstrate is that even engaging in voting, you can do that safely. And I'm very proud of our election workers that are doing an outstanding job of trying to keep everybody safe, socially distance even as they go and exercise that important responsibility. In our democracy. I indicated that today, I would talk about a winter strategy, which I really outlined about the, you know, a couple of weeks ago, in very narrow terms, and I wanted to put a little bit more emphasis on this strategy. And those who engage in sports, particularly football, understand that football really boils down to a couple fundamentals, blocking and tackling, you block and you tackle well, and football and you have a good chance of winning. Well, whenever it comes to a strategy for finding COVID-19, you can listen to every national expert, and everyone can probably recite pretty much the fundamentals of fighting a virus. And so it's not necessarily a complicated as much as it is a point of emphasis, understanding it, and following through with it. And so we can reduce the COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas by implementing a layered strategy. And that is as we mitigate the risk of by implementing each part of the strategy, we realize that every layer builds upon the other layers, and it takes all of us working together to be successful. It's a layered approach to fighting the virus. And it starts with individual responsibility. from social distancing, and compact crowd avoidance. That's the starting point. We wear our mask or our face coverings. And we should remember that we do have a mask mandated Arkansas, which mandates if you cannot socially distance to wear a mask when you're in a public environment. Thirdly, get a flu shot. This is important to help us get through the winter. It's part of our layered strategy to be successful in reducing the impact of covid 19. Each of these items are matters of individual responsibility. The state can't do it for you, you have to exercise that remember it and be very diligent about it. And then, whenever you look at the strategy that involves our health officials, our schools and our communities, it is about testing. It is about continuing to test more than 6% of our population each month, which we far exceeded that this month, we want to be able to continue that pattern. It is about contact tracing and quarantines, which is the most difficult part of the public application of our virus controls. Because no one wants to be set aside for 14 days. That's why the social distancing is very, very important. We're continuing to emphasize the contact tracing, sometimes I hear about delays in it is generally because they used a commercial lab, that it takes some time to get the reports back to get it to the contact tracer. It's a much quicker process whenever it goes directly through our Department of Health. We're working constantly to improve that. And then part of the strategy, which is new is compliance checks. And we need to be responsible every day. But we've utilized the support of the Arkansas Municipal League, our local officials, as well as our public health enforcement officers as well as our ABC enforcement to make sure businesses are doing the right things to go in to educate folks to do what is necessary to slow the spread. And then it's important to note as we go through the winter that we're going to continue to work for vaccine distribution. I was encouraged in my last call with Secretary a czar, in which they said that when They have emergency youth use authorization from the FDA, that within 24 hours that vaccine will be out in the different states, obviously, Dr. Romero is working on the priority of that is not going to be widely distributed quickly. But it will go to health care workers and priority populations. But we're continuing to work through this time period to develop those protocols.
With that, let me go to, and I did mention, the marketing campaign will be a part of it this year as well. And this complete state strategy in a little bit longer form. more explanation will be posted on our Department of Health website. So that will be available for everybody to understand that strategy and what we're all working on together. And let's go to the case report for today. We have in terms of confirmed cases, we have an additional 520 confirmed cases. From yesterday, we have an additional 358 probable cases. That brings us to a total of 878 new confirmed and probable cases here in the state. Our hospitalizations have declined by 21, which is good news. And of course, regrettably, we have additional deaths of 18. That includes both confirmed and probable deaths. I also was pleased to see the testing was at 6410, both PCR tests and antigen test. And Dr. Romero will be able to talk about the counties that have were high and their numbers and a little bit more detail on that momentarily. But let's look at it from the standpoint of our graphs. And here's the new cases by case type. So the red is the PCR the confirmed case, the white is the probable case. And as you know, I like to compare it to seven days before we did a little bit better than seven days before. But the trend line you can see the seven day rolling average of confirmed and probable cases, we're not at our high watermark is down a little bit. And our confirmed cases are lower this week than the previous week. And our antigen tests impact a little bit fairly flat. But that trend line is better the number of currently hospitalized patients. And here again, we had a little bit of reduction. But that's just a little bit below a high mark. We haven't reached the 700. But that puts stress on our system. And let me pause for a moment and ask Bo Ryle to come and talk a little bit about the hospitalizations and where we are.
Thank you, Governor. Appreciate the opportunity to be here today. It's good to see that hospitalizations have decreased recently, but as has been noted hospitalizations reached their highest levels recently, we're seeing increases across the state in particular northeast and Central Arkansas. hospital bed capacity in northeast and central areas are tight. But the total beds available is not the issue. It is the number of health care workers available to staff the beds, some numbers of interest to you. 10% of occupied beds have COVID patients 26% of occupied ICU beds have COVID patients, and 31% events are in use by COVID patients at some of the highest numbers that we've seen in those areas. Currently, hospitals are not seeing any major deficiencies in PP or testing supplies. What we are seeing is a shortage of health care workers that's caused by fatigue competition from other states, increasing costs and community exposure. Reports from every region of the state indicate fatigue from health care workers and treating covid patients. As we begin to think about our own fatigue. Let's consider the effort going on by healthcare workers across our state and their fatigue. These health care heroes have been working around the clock to treat covid patients and to begin to see decreases in hospitalizations. We as a state needs to remain vigilant in complying with wearing a mask, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings. If we continue to see these cases escalate, we in turn will have hospitalizations increase and the stress on the health care system will be felt. Hospitals are stretched thin in some areas and we ask that you please adhere to the safety measures again of wearing a mask social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding large gatherings and also get your flu shot.
Thank you, Governor Thank you bow. Bow. That's
an important message. And thank you for going northeast Arkansas, I really applaud that community in northeast Arkansas for taking real leadership at the local level to push the simple fundamentals of blocking and tackling that we have to do to fight this virus. And let's proceed on to the number of COVID PCR test by testing facility. And it's really interesting doctor, the Department of Health is down. And it's because Dr. Romero is suggesting that they're utilizing the antigen test that we don't get until later. And so we're looking at how we can make sure we utilize our department of health resources so we can do adequate testing. But that's a little bit of the reason that that is down from what it has been the seven day rolling average of positivity rate in Arkansas, we stay below this 10% we had picked up from our low point got up higher, still below 10%. But that is down a little bit from what it has been. And then the percent rolling average of positivity and antigen test. So this combines the antigen test. And the course the antigen tests are higher. We're still below the 10%. But you can see the positivity, right. And this, I always watch klasky County. And right at the time of school, we were down to 5% positivity rate and plasti County, really almost on the day school started if I remember correctly, and it edged up, I believe over 6% it's come back down a little bit which is encouraging to us. But this is helpful for everybody. Looking at the positivity rate in your local area of Arkansas, you can see this on the Department of Health website. And then I just want to emphasize even though we're into November by a few days, on PCR tests during the month of October, we did 310,000 test, which is over 10% of the population. And I should say doesn't mean we've tested 10% of the population because somebody could be tested twice, I recognize that. But you have 300,000 to 310,000 is more than equivalent to 10% of our population, just in PCR tests on the antigen test. We add 40 more thousand. And that number has been such a successful strategy in terms of increasing the emphasis, you can see how the public continues to utilize that I expect that trend to continue. This gives you a look at the different regions of Arkansas, we always like to look at the trend lines, not a whole lot new here northeast and northwest are right together in terms of almost mirroring each other in terms of being the top two regions in terms of new cases. The bottom two Southwest southeast are flat with Central Arkansas being fairly consistent in third place. And then we'd like to look at the breakdown by public health region in growth rates. And this is the percent growth rate from October 25 to October 31. And again, we could see an 8.1% growth way in growth rate in northeast Arkansas, South West 7.4% Central Arkansas 6.5 growth rates are important sounds a warning, we need to watch those areas. And this is going to lead into a secretary key and his comments. But this is instructive because August 24 is the day that school started. Now August 24. We had already school going on. So blue is the public K through 12 School line in terms of new cases, the red is the private K through 12, which we track. And then the jagad. One is the higher education. And so from this you can see from August 24, the spike that was so enormous in higher ed, and how that's come down and how it's pretty much flattened out in terms of growth of new cases. The K through 12 is a different story. And that's the blue line where you've seen it increase and then it's flattened out more but it's still edging up. And so I'm going to ask Secretary key to come and comment on the progress that we're making in K through 12 education relation to COVID
Thank you, Governor. Last week, we continued to see progress with respect to the number of on site modifications that schools were implementing. We had eight last week. That is down from 11. The week before. And as of this morning, we had 10 districts that had implement, we're still implementing some type of on site modification. There was well, there is now well over 180 schools that exactly one or 85 that have returned from an on site modification to their regular operation. One of the biggest concerns that we hear from educators around the state continues to be the engagement of students in online learning. In response to that we have launched just a couple of weeks ago engage Arkansas. And as an update. Now we have 118 districts who have signed up to participate in the engage Arkansas initiative with over 15,000 student referrals. These are students that the districts have identified as not being engaged in a proper level, in their online learning, engage Arkansas is working to through the Office of educational middle zones, and the education renewal zones around the state to develop a process of working this database in the communities to identify wraparound services and other types of student supports, and identifying these students and reaching out directly to them, in order to understand better what needs they have, that can help them get better engaged in their online learning. And with that, Governor, I'll turn it back to you.
Thank you, Johnny. And we just have a couple more points to make. This asked for. Because these are test rates with some of our surrounding states, we look at this from time to time. And you can see, this is the rate per 100. Persons tested 28.6 for Texas. And you can see how we stack up Tennessee continues to do a very good job in testing. But we are next to them. And we continue to increase that. Then I asked for this also, because it puts it in perspective as to how serious covid 19 is, and these are death rates in Arkansas by cause of death. And Dr. Porter will have to explain a little bit as to the crude death rate. But that's a technical term that's utilized. But you can see that cancer, of course, is the major cause of death heart attack, but then COVID right now, in Arkansas is the third leading cause of death, you have you have diabetes, you have suicide motor vehicle crashes, is at 17.8. Along with pneumonia, if you doubled pneumonia and motor vehicle crashes together, you're still nowhere even close to where we are with COVID-19. So it is a deadly virus that takes people's lives. We want to make sure everybody understands the seriousness of it. And then the next. This is the death rates by state in the southeast conference. Just a few of them doesn't. It's not all encompassing here, of course, but it just gives you a perspective as to where Arkansas is in terms of our death rate. Louisiana, they got hit so hard, Mississippi got hit very hard. And you know, we were down much lower, but our death rate is increased. And you can see that over the last month, particularly in October. So we want to be able to focus on saving lives and making sure that we do not inadvertently cause a spread that will cause an elderly person or someone else to go to the hospital. This is I'm going to stop there. That sister will stop there on that. with that. I want to give that to Dr. Romero. I know he's got some comments tonight. Dr. Merrill.
Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. I'll talk a little bit about the counties that have more than 20 cases reported in the last 24 hours and then I'll make some additional comments. So today we have 12 counties above the 20 are equal to the 20 a case Mark they are Benton County with 96 cases. Washington 77 Pulaski with 66 Craighead with 38 Sebastian with 37 saline 34 Green 31 Faulkner 28 cases milk And Mississippi counties have 24,
County 23. And lastly, Crawford with 22. So we're still seeing disease across the state. But I want to really turn to our winter strategy. It involves not only what we do as a community, but individually. And I want people to take this disease seriously, that when we get together, whether that be in a small group or a large group, there is a risk of transmission of covid disease, certainly, the smaller the group, the less that risk is, and I'm leading into the issue of family gatherings, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, we need to really think seriously this year, whether it is advisable to bring 2030 members into the fit into a home, especially if you're traveling from regions outside of Arkansas, into the into an environment where there can be increased transmission of the virus during those during those events. Also, some of us have family outside of the state. And we need to think very seriously about travel to and from areas of higher incidence of COVID are we going to bring something back if we leave. So we this was not something that we can mandate, we simply want to I simply want to bring this to your attention, I would suggest that if you have these reunions that you limit them to 10 or less, and that you limit them to persons that you are in your from your family, your immediate family, we need to control this, we know that at this time. A lot of this transmission of covid is happening within families and small group settings. So please keep this in mind and protect each other. And I'll stop there and turn this back over to the governor. Thank you, Governor.
Well, said Dr. Romero, with that Secretary Gray's available for questions as well, he's here. But let me with that. Go ahead and turn it open for questions.
Is there any part of that that is something new? Because I guess I'm wondering, we seem to be on kind of a bad trajectory in terms of our cases? And is there anything that you expect to turn that around?
Well, yes, that strategy will turn it around. Absolutely. Now, the emphasis on the compliance is a new element of that the the emphasis upon the marketing, which we have done some but we're going to increase our marketing, programs and investment, so that we can push specific messages in the population. So there's a number of new elements there. But as I said, if you look at the strategy of mask, that's not going to alone, do everything that's needed. And so you have to layer that was social distancing. And those two alone will not stop the spread, you layer that with our efforts for contact tracing and testing. And you layer upon layer, and you have a very effective strategy. And as I said, you look at the national experts, they're not coming out with new strategies. It's implementing the smart strategies that the epidemiologists have advocated since day one. Now we are putting it together in a state fashion, emphasizing the specifics that are new, the compliance efforts. Sure, you could add additional things you could add, we're going to put in more restrictions, we're going to have us stay at home order, those are specifically left out. Because if you implement this winter strategy that we're putting up with the Department of Health website, then you're not going to have to put more strictures on business, and you're going to be able to keep your schools open, implement this strategy, because it's proven to be successful. It's less a
question about contact tracing and how we're doing it if we have enough staff. How many people we might be missing just what the situation is. There's been a lot of stories in the national press lately about various states having trouble.
And we'll let Dr. merrow comment on that. And I'll follow it up.
Thank you again. So at this time, we think we have enough staff, I mean, we're looking at their numbers. There's a queue IQ, a quality insurance quality improvement process that we do every week to look at how we're doing with our with our contact tracing that is time from positive test time to first contact and then deeper contact by the contact tracer. So we are implementing strategies to make At better at this time, we think we have sufficient contact tracers. But let me say this that if we continue to increase, there will come a time where those contact tracers cannot keep up with the load. So it's incumbent upon us to implement those things, as the governor has said over and over again, so well, to bring this under control
about the strategies
that the governor has mentioned or
your strategies, health department strategies on contact tracing? Well, so
as we find deficiencies in contact times, we try to find out where those where those breaks can be, and try to shore them up. So I can't give you specifics right now. But we'd be happy to give you the data once we, once we're offline.
Let me just add that I was briefed by the health department along with our our contractors that are managing the program for contact tracing. I like the progress. I like the fact that they are fully staffed and I asked specifically, can you handle 1000 cases a day? And the answer is yes, of course, the challenge is making sure that the response rate is good, and that people respond to the contact tracer when they call and that they're working on. But I think we have a good infrastructure in place. It's a matter of people being responsive to it. Any Is there any questions remotely?
Yes, Governor. Good afternoon, nuchal Abner and hotsprings. Could you be kind enough to two things, ask your health expert to explain what that chart means where it says crude death rate. And with regards to the contact tracing, if I'm not mistaken, you're paying for that with Care's money, which of course runs out at the end of the year? What's the plan into January and beyond?
I'll have Dr. Porter come and answer that first part of the question. In terms of the contact tracing, we have sufficient contract that goes into the winter months, I'll have to check just to see how long that specifically goes. But we will, as a state make sure that we meet that challenge and that our contact tracing will remain a integral part of our anti COVID response. So that will happen. I'd have to get more details as to when that cares act money actually runs out for that. Mark Porter.
Thank you, Governor. And thank you for that question. So what we mean by crude death rates is that it's a simple numerator. So the number of deaths divided by the total number of individuals within a population. When we do statewide comparisons, looking at Arkansas compared to other states, we try to adjust for variables such as age, so that it's standard across across the platform. And so for instance, you know, if we look at the state of New York, their population distribution of elderly individuals compared to let's say, a state like Florida is going to be vastly different. So when you adjust for age, it allows you to compare essentially apples and apples and that the crude rate does not take that into account. Thank you.
Governor's Josh white over Kitt in northeast Arkansas. Last week spoke it was you don't really need to do anything more stringent in northeast Arkansas when it comes to trying to enforce the mask mandate. And then in your winter plan, it is compliance checks. We had asked the Arkansas Department of Health for any compliance checks that they've done, written any warnings or fines in northeast Arkansas, the last one was done in June. Why the change of pace all of a sudden
it's what do you say last thing was done in June? What was what happened in June?
That was the last time anyone in northeast Arkansas was fine for not wearing a mask.
That's interesting to note that somebody was fine. Well, the there's in terms of the compliance efforts, the local community has a responsibility in terms of education in terms of reminding in terms of giving a warning where necessary, the mass mandate does include a penalty with it. And so that's a law enforcement response. Again, I applaud northeast Arkansas leadership Judge de and others that gathered together and I watched it actually and, and what a great presentation on community responsibility engagement and reminding people of just that to comply with the mandate. So there's a lot of ways to emphasize the compliance part of it. We continue to do that with the through the Department of Health, ABC enforcement as well as our local law enforcement. Alright, with that, I thank you for being here today. Have a good election day. Thank you.