8:52PM Sep 10, 2020
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Andrew DeMillo - AP
Dr. Ivy Pfeffer - ADE
But we just had the Arkansas Better Business Bureau torture wards which is recognizing businesses that have high ethical standards and they gave me a man. So I wanted to say thanks to the Arkansas Better Business Bureau today. And I'm pleased to be joined today by Dr. Jose Romero, the Department of Health, but also Dr. IV, Pfeffer of the Department of Education. And appreciate you joining us today for today's daily COVID-19 update. And let me first say that tomorrow we'll be in Mena. Looking forward to having our daily update from Mina tomorrow, and tomorrow. That will be our last daily COVID-19 update. And we'll be switching to a weekly COVID-19 update format, weekly or as necessary. And so that's the game plan. And so it should be next Tuesday. We will have our next update after Mina tomorrow. And then we'll be going to Batesville on Wednesday thereafter, like I said, weekly updates or as needed. And the reason for that is this has been a very useful tool to communicate directly with the public and through the media that have been great partners in this. But our communication tools have increased with the Department of Health website and so the information is easily accessible. We encourage everyone to go there on a regular basis. And then we also have utilized this daily update as an opportunity to keep everyone informed on our infrastructure, which is our testing capacity in Arkansas. The hospitalization rate And our excess capacity that we have or how crowded we are. We've addressed issues here from antigen testing, to contact tracing. And what we've done over the last six months is really built the infrastructure to meet the concerns of this pandemic. And so I think we can address it on a weekly basis and as needed in the future. It's been a very, very useful tool. I also emphasize that just because we're not having a daily update, does not mean we did not that we are not in an emergency, we continue to be in emergency as long as we have the national emergency, as well as we have the case counts that we're having. That emergency continues and is not going to diminish my attention to this. Dr. Romero and I will be having our daily visits and work together very closely on continuous into the future, even though we will not be given a daily update. And during the course of the last, I believe it's 143 days that we've given the our daily updates, that has gone to millions and millions of Arkansas viewers that have participated in this. I want to thank the public for their support of this effort and all that we're trying to accomplish and communicate during this pandemic. I will let me start today's briefing with mentioning that today is Suicide Prevention Day. And of course in Arkansas and across the nation suicides are up, mental health issues have increased. And it's important that we draw attention to the fact that there is help for any arkans and that is suffering that is distressed. That is having depression that you can call a suicide, suicide prevention. In a lifeline to talk, this is also obviously noted in Spanish as well. And there's a special connection when you call this number if you're a veteran, you'll have special services that are provided to you. If you call this number if you want everyone to take advantage of that if there is a need. Now let's go to the case report.
Over the last 24 hours, we've had 398 additional COVID-19 cases. That brings us to 66,804. In terms of hospitalizations, we have a 19 fewer that are hospitalized, which is great news. That brings us down under 400 which is brings us to 392 the number of our Kansans hospitalized. We have 12 additional deaths that brings us to 940 cumulative total in terms of the 398 new cases. Dr. Romero will mention more specifically the counties. But I did want to mention that Washington County has only 37 cases. And so I hope that's an indication that we're making progress at the University of Arkansas and I know that they're working very diligently on that. terms of testing, we tested 4900 PCR tests in the last 24 hours, we have a cumulative positivity rate of 8.3%. We continue to make progress in that area. Let's go through the graphs and I think we can see it just in a different way. And that's always encouraging when we see the last four days that we've had fewer than 400 cases it looks like and so positive and you go to the the rolling graph, seven day rolling average. You can see we're pointed in the right direction. I keep expecting an uptick I hope everybody keeps disappointing me, I don't want an uptick. And I hope that that will continue to go down in that direction. But it takes everyone's individual efforts to accomplish that. hospitalizations. We're back down, as you can see under 400, which is good news. And then the active cases are also down. So I'm anxious to get as down below that 5000 and active cases because that will be the lowest point of active cases, going back into June. And then the seven day rolling average of percent positivity. Again, as always, we're trying to keep below the 10% level that CDC is set. And we've been consistently you know, over the last two or three weeks under that 10% positivity rate that's been recognized by the White House Coronavirus Task Force And some of those last few days will be filled in will be going up. But if you look back even five days, we're below that 8% level. And then this is the data test result is always important. I look at this closely because it shows where our tests are coming from. And of course, the white would be the Department of Health, that has been a consistent, strong partner in this. And then you have the red, which is the commercial labs. And that's not as robust as we'd like to see it. And that's why we are investing and partnering, as we said yesterday, with Baptist Health to increase our own hospital, our Department of Health testing capacity. And this goes to the antigen and let me stop here just for a second because we like to report that on antigen test we did 430 antigen test over the last time 24 hours of those 70 were positive 360 were negative, which is a 15.4% positivity rate for those anti antigen test. And also, there's been a lot of inquiries, they like to see the antigen test broken down by county and the Department of Health that worked on this and that should be up Friday on the website that you can actually see that broken down in a closer fashion. Our antigen test for the month, as you can see is 4513. We're not halfway through the month, but we're getting close to our goal of 10,000 or at least to the halfway point. And that's the positivity that I just mentioned for our antigen test, which had been consistently higher than our PCR test. And with that, let me ask Dr. Romero to come. And we will ask Dr. Pfeffer to make To report on education after Dr. Romero.
Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. So to add a little bit more on the numbers, so our active cases as of today are 5196. In addition to a reduction in the number of individuals hospitalized, we have three fewer individuals requiring mechanical ventilation. So we're now at 79. Our recovered patients to date are 60,668 with an increase of 748. As mentioned, we had 12 additional deaths. Unfortunately, for a total of 940. We noticed no clustering whatsoever. Three of the deaths were delayed reporting, three deaths from nursing homes and one from a correctional facility in In terms of the PCR testing, the Arkansas Department of Health continues to do significant numbers of tests. There were 2004 followed by our commercial laboratories that have done 2598 and lastly usms at 298. The total number of tests performed a PCR test performed to date are 61,392. Now with regard to the counties, there are only four counties with more than 20 cases reported in the last 24 hours. Pulaski County continues to lead at 72 cases, followed by Washington County, which is now at 37. Jefferson at 33. And lastly, Craighead County. Let me turn my attention to suicide prevention. The governor has mentioned that that is the focus of today we have an active Suicide Prevention line. It's the Al Sisi lifeline. It's been in existence since December of 2017. It's man 24 seven, with six operators. And, as mentioned by the governor, if you're a veteran, the calls are transferred to the Veterans Association for additional services. COVID issues have been mentioned among the top issues recently for contacting the Suicide Prevention line. And we urge all of you both using an English or Spanish line to please contact us. If you are concerned about issues that you need to talk about. We will put you in contact with the proper persons. We are there to help. This is a serious problem and a problem that we can address. So thank you again and I'll turn it over to Dr. Pfeffer.
Thank Good afternoon. And I wanted to update you today on the fact that all of our school districts have submitted their district support plans, which are a component of the district's commitment of ready for learning. Their district support plans outline how the district is ensuring that all students are going to have access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum throughout the year, no matter if they are participating in traditional onsite learning if they're part of the Virtual Learning Plan, or if they are a student in a hybrid model or blended learning model. These plans are also important because they outline the communication that the district will engage in with the communities about learning options and also assure that students will have the necessary resources as we continue to work throughout the year. We know that this is very very important for families for students and Have that assurance that students are going to be able to continue to have those learning opportunities. We also are very proud of our districts in the steps that they are taking to meet the needs of families and students. But we also know that that's a challenge. And we will continue to stay engaged with our districts and as they need to make adjustments or modifications as they come up with new ideas in order to support students. We're learning a lot from them about concerns that they have for students to stay engaged. And we are going to be working with them on strategies to ensure not only that students that are enrolled in the appropriate learning path for them, but that they also stay engaged throughout the academic year. And we have only had two additional schools report the need to modify their on site operations. And for us, we'll be making a modification for One of their grade levels, I think they have a third grade class that will be working virtually through the end of the week. And at that time, they'll reevaluate if there's a need to do anything longer. And also Tuckerman High School is going to pivot to remote learning due to some cases that they have in that district. And they will be pivoting through September 21. We'll continue to work with those districts that have made modifications, many of them are preparing to come back on inside as soon as possible. And again, we're just very appreciative of the work going on in our schools right now.
Thank you, IV and with that, we'll take any questions. To the survivor. Yeah.
Any idea the reason for this kind of a lower number of cases over the past few days.
I've been very encouraged by it.
My sense is that people are taking it very seriously as we go back to school, that they are following the guidelines to a greater extent in Arkansas. And then I actually we haven't talked about it very much lately, but I think our contact tracing has proven to be more very successful in identifying clusters and doing isolation quarantine to stopping additional spread. So I think all of that combined has given us some good results this week. You know, the testing has been strong. And, you know, the numbers have been steady, they're still, you know, I still would like to see the numbers decline more obviously, this is not where we want to be in a long term result. But I'd much rather prefer a plateau here, then at a much higher level, which we were tinkering with, it seems a couple weeks ago. Duck marriage. Do you have anything else to add on that? Is there any questions from our remote listeners?
Yeah. Hey, Governor, this is Andrew with AP. Hana, two things want to ask you about, first of all the the Coronavirus relief package the slimmed down version didn't get through, they didn't get through the Senate today. It looks like there's not much hope of there being a package getting through before before November. One wanted to see what impact we could end up having on Arkansas in terms of the response here. And also in terms of the state's state's finances, is this gonna put a strain if there isn't a chi additional relief package? And the second thing I want to ask you about? I know you're asked about this yesterday, but want to follow up on the President's interviews with Bob Woodward. Want to see? Does it concern you at all that the press And that is admitting that he intentionally downplayed the the coronavirus risk, you know, either from a policy standpoint and also from public health standpoint, does that alarm you at all that he wasn't being spurred forward on what the threat was?
Good, thank you. In terms of the negotiations in Congress, I've I've always been skeptical, particularly the last couple of weeks that they would reach a deal before the election days. So I think that is after the election date. I do want them to reach a deal they need to because there's additional assistance and flexibility that needs to be provided to the States. And the primary impact where I'm not worried about the state budget. state budget is in good shape, we have a unallocated surplus, our revenue stream is is good every month. And so the concern though, is in the cares act. funding that we have, that we're allocating out to our counties and our cities, we're putting it into, you know, one of them would be a structure for our immunization program in the future. And we have some money set aside. But one of the requirements of the current cares act is that that money has to be spent by the end of this year. And whenever you're looking at high speed internet to which is important for us during a pandemic, that money is hard to get spent by December 30. So the most urgent need is that they come together and provide an extension of time for the expenditure of that those funds that are available to us. There's other needs that are out there, but that's the most important issue that I hope that they address. In terms of the second part of your question in reference to Bob Woodward's book, you know, I looked at that I looked at what the President said. And I don't think, you know, anybody is surprised by the fact that he tried to encourage the economy. He tried to minimize some of this virus and its impact. I think that's clear, not from, I mean, from many different public statements. But what's important to note is that the public was very well informed. One of the things that was quoted attributed to the president you know, is that this was transmissible in a viral way. That is airborne. Well, everybody knew that early on, and that was being spoken by Dr. Fauci. We understood that so the public is not misled on that the facts are well known. I think for that reason, Dr. Fauci was not overly concerned about the President's comment. whenever it comes to the public dialogue and information, the most important thing is as a leader, that you give honest information to the public, that you make sure that they're aware of what is needed for them to make decisions on their behavior. It's also important that a leader not create panic. And at that point in time, there was a lot of information out there that was panic oriented. And it was not really supportable by data. If you remember here in Arkansas, we were going to fill up War Memorial Stadium with, you know, the need for hospital space. Well, you know, that's information that is out there, but we don't stress it as leaders because that does create was not realistic and it created extraordinary would create extraordinary concerns. So I think there is that balance of being honest and straightforward, but at the same time, not creating panic. Next question.
Governor is Josh white over at K it is jonesborough. We've been noticing on the ACA Chai website that school districts are not consistent in reporting the numbers. If it's staff if students or anything, some will just put some numbers but not feel anything out. Others don't put anything in there. How? How are we translating this to be open? Whenever the numbers are just across the board?
Well, I mean, obviously if a school is not doing what they're supposed to be doing is drawn to our attention and we address that, but I'll ask Dr. Pfeffer and Dr. Romero both to comment on that.
And so a couple of things. I think it's important to note that The public is receiving data from different sources. So I think I heard you mentioned that a chi website and so that data is going to be a lagging data. And it's, it's representing the community numbers, not what is actually going on inside the school district. school districts have to balance. A lot of things as they are reporting data, they've got to balance privacy also, with the fact of, you know, one confirmed case can have a much different impact in a school district, depending on how many close contacts that that confirm case comes into contact with. So I think when districts are reporting, their reporting, the information that they have the number of confirmed cases, the number of close contacts and the timing and location of those cases throughout the school district are all going to have to be considerations that are have to be taken into consideration when any type of decisions are being made. So I think schools districts are aware of the need to keep their public informed they need. They're wanting to ensure that public confidence is there. And I think they understand that they have to be seen as trustworthy in order to do that.
So, the schools have a point of contact for the transmission of information regarding cases and suspected contacts to the health department. Within the health department, we have our own education group that meets and discusses the transmission of this data to us daily. We have not seen a decrease in any transmission. It's still robust. We have good contact, both coming and going from the health department with each of the school so at least from what I have seen, there has not been a lag.
Next, follow up question I apologize for jumping in but the achei website whenever you click on the school district, It literally says staff, students, custodian, that kind of information. So how is that not school oriented data that the Department of Education spoken
achei puts on there the data from the school district, and then the schools released the information in terms of each individual school that's up to them to more carefully identify, but a chi puts up there the school district information, and is for school districts that have more than five cases. Am I correct? Nope. All right. And, I mean, they just reviewed with me, you know, the latest report and all the schools that have cases and so I can see it. It's sufficiently accurate for me to understand where the The challenges are that we face so we want to be transparent about it. And as far as we can see the information is flowing in. Next question.
Hey, Governor, it's Ashley Godwin with th v. 11. In your meetings that you had with President Trump and Vice President Pence. Did they ever talk about the severity of the virus, how severe it was or not severe and their opinion and were you ever told to play it down or as you said, minimize this virus?
I've never been told in any of my meetings to minimize the concern of the virus. You know, the presentations from the vice president the Coronavirus Task Force, the Vice President makes comments that are very straightforward as what we're doing. And then it goes through the medical professionals and our public health experts. Dr. Burks, Dr. Fauci. You know you know, the Admiral for testing on and on down the list. So we hear directly from the public health experts. And it's all in a factual way. And there's never been any minimizing of it. We all hear President Trump's public comments. And everybody understands what he was doing, how he's communicating and his unique style. So I just didn't see. You know, my frustrations were always in the area of testing and what we needed more support on but it was and, you know, some frustration in terms of the national messaging on wearing a mask and the importance of it beyond that. They've been very, very supportive, and I think their communication has been very helpful. Next question.
Governor, this is Benjamin hardy with the Arkansas nonprofit News Network. I have a question about contact tracing Know that previously some of the response rate for contact tracing is fairly low. And that people were missing, you know, up to 25% of attempted contacts. I just wonder what that rate is now and whether it's sufficient to be keeping track of who's infected.
Well, I'm going to ask Stephanie Williams to come and comment because she gave me a report yesterday that the timeframes have been improved. And I asked about the staffing as well and I was encouraged by the the breadth and the increase in staffing. So Stephen,
thank you, Governor. We do have a quality improvement process in place where we're tracking the metrics and we have seen consistent improvement. We now have over 600 contact tracers working. So the turnaround time between the time they initially contact, have the case information and then make the contact hex is continuing to shrink. And I'm not sure if I can pull up I have a lot of data and I'm not sure I can pull it up really quickly. But we're tracking it for each one of the contact tracing providers. And I'm not going to be able to find it, but it is improving, it's getting much shorter. Also, I think the question was about being able to contact individuals. And I think you probably remember that we were having a difficulty with folks not providing phone numbers and complete contact information that has also improved over time. So that number is is much smaller, and I think it was under 20%, maybe 18%. On the last report I saw so that's also improving.
Thank you, anything else?
Hey, Governor, this is Joshua kbit. One more question. Starting next week, what are you and Eddie gonna be doing at 130 in the afternoon now, you know,
eddie's is so sad because I had broke the news to him earlier that we're going to a weekly update. But I hope Edie will continue to be a partner with us. He's been very critical. That's nice of you to ask that. So he'll be with me as we continue this journey together. And let me emphasize that, you know, we will do it weekly or as needed. And so, if you want to get rid of me, make sure you keep those cases low, that we ever do everything that we need to do. So you don't have to come back and hear from me more frequently. And I say that somewhat jokingly has been a great partnership and appreciate everybody's participation in it. With that, thank you very much.