7:45PM Sep 15, 2020
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Chad Mira - KNWA
Alex Burch - KATV
Dr. Mike Cima
Dr. Ivy Pfeffer - ADE
Thank you for joining me today. I'm delighted to have today, a mass presented by the county judges association that I spoke to earlier at their meetings in Benton and appreciate their partnership through all of this. Welcome. This is the first weekly COVID-19 update. We of course, went daily for 144 days I believe it is. And today we'll start going weekly through this given a weekly report. And so there's a lot to cover today. I'm pleased to be joined by Dr. Jose Romero, the Department of Health, Dr. IV Pfeffer of the Department of Education. We have additionally Dr. Seeley that's here as an expert on antigen testing equipment and she runs the lab at the Department of Health and Dr. Sima is here as well to talk about an issue as we go forward. First, if we see, trying to develop whether there's a pattern in our cases, with last Friday being a very high day of over 1100 cases, and every day, going down sequentially since then, today, we're up a little bit in our cases, and I'll give that information to you. But there is a little bit of a pattern up some days and going down sequentially and then popping back up a little bit. So we're trying to figure out that pattern in cases. In the meantime, we're continuing to emphasize our testing and our as you will see today, that our testing is very, very strong across the state of Arkansas, but I do want to lead out with an announcement and that announcement is that as you know, we have invested in 200 bd Vera d'Or veritone, our point of care, antigen testing equipment, those are in house, but we do did not have the supplies to match up with those antigen antigen test. And so we've been a little bit hamstrung by the ability to greatly increase our antigen testing across Arkansas. The good news is that the Department of Health has received 12,000 antigen test that is in hand that will allow us to have at least two months of antigen testing guaranteed through the Department of Health and this is great news to greatly expand our testing capacity in Arkansas, as well as continuing to increase our PCR testing. This right here is the antigen test. And the beauty of it is it is simple. It does not take a great deal of time and it is quick point of care and so the simplicity of the antigen mission With the adequate testing is what is going to help us make sure we can prioritize our K through 12 schools as well as our colleges. And with that, I want to go to our first slide that demonstrates how this is going to be distributed across the state of Arkansas. And here the type of facility on the right shows that we're going to have in YT and jonesborough. We're going to have our Arkansas Minority Health with the antigen test machines. We're going to have the Northwest council that will have to, we're going to have critical access hospitals. We will have them distributed to our small rural hospitals as well. And then our local health units will be the critical link to this. That's the yellow and you'll see those locations all across Arkansas are local health units and so people can go into our local health units, they will have access to antigen tasks quick turnaround point of care tests. And then you can see the options that we have in our testing to continue to enhance that. I want to ask Stephanie Williams to come up, who's our Chief of Staff of the Department of Health and to refer to this chart and go through a little bit more clarity on how these testing equipment will be distributed.
Thank you, Governor. That was a great overview. We are really excited that we have these the test kits and can now fully implement the antigen testing statewide as the governor said, we will be placing a unit in each one of our local health units. Today we have 37 units that have been providing antigen testing, they've done 670 test in in those counties and have identified a number of positives. So in the counties where we have high volume of visitors for antigen testing and these will be our units in jonesborough. So Craighead County, Washington County, Benton County, Jefferson County, those units will actually be receiving a second machine now. So they'll have to so that'll, that will increase their ability to serve folks in a timely manner. So in addition to that, the governor mentioned that we'll be placing a unit with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, we're very excited, they'll be focusing on doing testing in the southern part of the state also, with the mobile unit, that in WA t, which is our do school at ASU, they will be focused on doing testing in the eastern part of the state and the delta. So we're excited we'll have those two mobile units up and they will have the capability to do PCR testing using the public health laboratory but also offer antigen testing for patients that are symptomatic. Then also our critical access hospitals will be offered a machine now All of those hospitals need one of these machines, but they will have access if they do. Also the small hospitals, we have about six hospitals that qualify as small rural hospitals and participate in some pro special programming with us. They will also be offered machines. that'll leave us with probably about 40 to 50 machines that we'll look at placing in the community. So, in our emergency communication center, Mr. Joe Mark Martin serves as our point of contact for clinics that are dealing with issues related to securing testing supplies. So he is receiving a request for assistance either for folk from folks that need BD machines and supplies or for groups that have a BD machine now but haven't been able to to secure testing material. So we're asking folks to call our hotline number and let us know if they feel like they would qualify for placement of a machine or if they need BD testing supplies which We might be able to assist with Thank you.
What this means for the average citizen is that they can go in as usual to get a PCR test. But they also have another option if they want a point of care test, an antigen test, they can go in and have that test taken in their local health unit or other place that is distributed. And this will really help us with our K through 12 education for greater turnaround, quicker turnaround, and greater access as well as to higher ed, those are the first priorities that we have for these new antigen test that we have obtained. With that I have an additional announcement to make that is somewhat frustrating, but also sad because it relates to the deaths in Arkansas. And just like in our testing, where we have had our PCR test. And then we went to our antigen test that added those probable cases of the same thing as happening in reference to our deaths. Today later we'll be adding 139 new deaths to the total COVID-19 das here in Arkansas, these will be probable deaths that will be characterized not the positive identification that have been done through the PCR test, and that we articulate every day but these will be characterized as probable test will be 139 that will be added, as that has been calculated by the Department of Health, Dr. Sima I've asked him to come and to explain this in more detail, what this means and what a probable death is characterized by Dr. Sima.
Thank you, Governor 3d reiterate what the governor already mentioned, in accordance with the council and state and territory epidemiologist case definition that was adopted by the CDC in August, we began reporting probable cases. And so to now we must report probable deaths. These will include persons who were diagnosed as a probable case. So for an example, somebody who had a positive antigen test only, they were labeled as a probable case and unfortunately expired. These will also include individuals who had on their death certificate COVID-19 as a contributing or underlying cause of their death, but we may not have had any laboratory evidence of infection. So per the case definition from CDC, St. cste, that was adopted by CDC, these persons would be labeled as a probable death. So we'll be adding 139 probably best to our website, these will be shown on our dashboard. Under problem desk, we'd be able to show those by county as well. And with that, I'll turn it Back to the governor.
And then let me go to our first graph actually be our second one. But I want to look at where we are, since this is September 15, where we are in our testing goals. And of course, our goal was a total of 200,000 total tasks which were 190,000 PCR test with another 10,000 antigen test. So these are our PCR tests on September 15. As you can see, we're at 102,000, which significantly exceeds our goal for the half of the month. So if we can finish strong, we're going to be able to make our goal. Clearly that's shows significant testing here in Arkansas during the first half. Again, if you look at just 6% of our population is 180,000. So that is more than 6% of our population that we're doing every month if we meet that goal. And then the next one is the number of antigen test. And here again, this starts September one, our increase, and you can see that over the weekend, we had just really flat in terms of our antigen testing, but they have increased dramatically with the beginning of the week. And so our total number of tests that we've done is 6888. And again, put that in perspective that we're going to be adding 12,000 antigen test capacity just with the supplies that we just announced earlier. So we expect that antigen testing to go up over the coming months. Next, you'll see the number of PCR test by facility and here again, we don't want to totally rely upon our commercial tests that goes up that goes down. But our Department of Health lab continues to be strong with with significant testing as well, and you can see that our testing in the last 24 hours has been 5852 PCR tests. The next slide will take us to the number of new cases. And let me spend a moment on this the we have 676 new cases in Arkansas in the last 24 hours. These are new PCR confirmed cases. We also have 11 additional hospitalization, and we have 17 additional depth. So I'll show those here in just a moment. But if you just look at the number of new cases, you can see that is just simply up and down. Now, I don't mind a little up and down lower. But I don't like the extraordinarily high for 1100 or 1000 cases because that just means that really there's getting dumped too many In one day, from our from our labs, and so we want a little bit more level out. But the next one shows the rolling average of cases that you can see the trend line where we're lower than we were at our height. But we, you know, if we, we want that to go down, we want that to have fewer cases, even though we're trying to identify as many as we can, for safety purposes. And next, the number of active cases is fairly flat right now. The next one shows the number of new cases in Arkansas by test type. I wanted to illustrate this because
the test type I was looking for the code there, the white or the antigen test, and the red or the PCR test. And so that's how it's broken down. And you can see in the last 24 hours, we've had The number of new cases resulting from those tests. So that's informative as to where the new cases are coming from. And then of the type of test. This is the antigen test of positivity rates, you can see as much higher up over 20% in positivity for our antigen test. The next one is the positivity right for PCR test. And this is important because look at the trend line, you see, really a consistent trend line when it was up over 10%. Having that go down and this is by week, but you've seen a consistent lowering of our positivity rate for our PCR test. This is the seven day rolling average, which is going the same direction below the 8%. We hope that we can keep that up if everyone does the right thing. So let's stop there. This is just a resource For our daily updates, there's other places that you can get this information when we're not having our daily update. This is from our website, the Department of Health website. And those will be posted every day, mid afternoon if you want to follow it. I did want to mention our hospitalizations are up by 11. That brings us to 389 hospitalizations, which is, again below the peak of 420. Some time ago, our deaths for the first time has reached over 1000 at 1003. And as I mentioned, that's going to go up significantly with the addition of the probable deaths. Dr. Sema, will that be included on that number? Will that be a separate number? They will be listed separately so the confirmed deaths will stay at 1003. We will start the other category of the probable test as well. And with that I wanted to invite Dr. Romero for his comment.
Thank you ever. So I will add a little bit more. So our total confirmed cases in the state today are a 70,125. With total probable cases, as mentioned by Dr. semma. And the governor, we are now reporting probable cases in the state 1232. With regard to use of ventilators, I'm happy to announce that we have further decreased the use of ventilators in our hospitalized patients. We are down to 68 a decrease of eight, again, indicating that we have a significant reserve recovered patients at this time we've added 675 to the roster with 63,415. The governor has mentioned the testing, we continue to be very robust with tests thanks to Dr. Seeley and her team at the public health lab processing over 2000 tests. The overall positivity rate is 8.3. From the start of the time we've been keeping it, but as mentioned by the governor for the last six weeks, including this week, we are well under the 10% mark and continue to decrease with regard to the counties. We have eight counties that have 20 or more cases, starting with Washington County at 91. Most of those cases come from the northwest I'm sorry, from around the university. Pulaski County at 71 Benton County 48 Sebastian county 47 Jefferson County 23 garland county 22. Faulkner 21 and finally Craighead at 20 and I believe there is another slide at this point. Yes. So thank you. So this The average 14 day moving average percent positivity per County, it allows us and you to compare your county positivity rate to other counties. As you can see we're doing fairly well in the central part of the state. But in the peripheral bars, especially up in Washington, those counties, our present positivity rate is over 10%. And we're trying to push this downward. So this points to more testing, and of course, adherence to the recommendations for the use of the mask, social distancing, and hand washing. So thank you very much. I will turn it over to Dr. D'Souza. Governor.
Thank you and I case that slipped through in addition to the 5852 PCR test, we did 880 antigen tests with 188 of those positive which is 21.4%. As I mentioned, in terms of education, I've asked Dr. to come and make a comment on where we are in our schools, which I just want to express a lot of pride in our teachers, in our students in our staff, administrators at our schools that have done so well in the start this year. Last year, we had 479,000 K through 12 public school students in Arkansas 479,000. So if we have similar numbers this year, then that means we've had 574 active cases in our schools that is less than less than two tenths of a percent in terms of paces in our schools. That's really a good start shows they're really following the guidelines and all really working hard to have it a successful year under Pfeffer.
Thank you, Governor and yes, we are proud of our school districts, and how They are responding as the school year starts. And as all of you know, we've discussed this the 574 active cases are going to affect and impact school district operations differently. And so whether a positive cases a student or a staff member, it's going to depend on the number of close contacts around that individual. And in many cases, if there are large numbers of staff affected in a school district, then the school district does have to make modifications. So just an update on where schools are today. Since school started, there have been a total of 39 COVID modifications to onsite instruction in some form or fashion. 22 of those modifications are still ongoing. So since the start of the school year, we we do have some that have been added. Eight have been added This week now and to understand that we, we have to remember that each of these modifications are unique to the school district and unique to the circumstances around the need for the modification. So one example might be in a district like Pocahontas that has shifted their high school to virtual for two days, and that is to allow the district time to do some cleaning and notification to all of the affected students. Another example of recent modifications is in the Pulaski County School District, where there was just one classroom of second grade students that are going to be utilizing virtual instruction for the next two weeks. We have had one school district that has had to pivot to remote learning for the rest of this week starting today. And that was also due to a large number of staff who had to be quarantined and the timing of the new staff members with the ones who already quarantine our Going to have them pivoting for a short time. But the plan is to return next week, if possible. So you can see that districts are really taking a measured response really focusing on the needs in their school community. And we do appreciate the the way school districts are working to continue to keep as many students on side as possible, and to have a great school year. Thank you.
Thank you, Ivy. With that. We'll be happy to take any questions.
With the problems that were added today. Are those what's the main reason that they are profitable? Is it primarily the antigen testing or is it primarily?
I'm going to let Dr. Sima address that.
Great question. Great question. So as I mentioned, you can be labeled as a probable case in probable death if you have a positive entity Test alone, and then you expire. And also you can be labeled as a probable death. If someone passes away, and on their death certificate, their underlying cause of death or a significant contributing cause of death is COVID-19. Even in the absence of an antigen test or a PCR test, this is 139, the most prevalent are going to be those that have COVID-19 listed on their death certificate, but not necessarily laboratory evidence.
How far back to these larger I don't
have that direct in front of me, we can get that information for you.
Yes, with these
new deaths added, I mean, do you get the sense that the number of deaths has been accelerating since March that we're kind of hitting these number milestones quicker and quicker and what do you make of that?
No, I don't have the sense that they're accelerating because and that's been a little bit of the frustrating part that we're adding deaths that were should have been accounted for in the month of July or June or two weeks ago. And so that's throwing the daily number off. So I'm frustrated by the system that has been changed by the CDC as to how you count these, but we're trying to be very transparent in it. We're concerned about every death, but I don't see that that's accelerating. It's just simply that we are really accounting for deaths that have come in previously, Dr. Romero or Dr. Sima, you have anything to add to that. Yeah, please.
So, it is, you know, we do report new deaths. Those are the date in which we report them. There are another way to look at that as the date that the person actually expired and we are keeping track of that it has been fairly linear. We have not seen any exponential growth and the number of deaths by date of death.
Much more precise answer than I gave that. Thank you for that question. Is there anything from
remotely? Yeah, the governor, this is a Andrew with AP. Had a couple questions for you. And for Dr. Romero, I guess first of all, kind of a progress report on or is there a sense of any progress with U of A and other college campuses, especially with Washington County topping list of counties again today? Are you are you are you getting any kind of sense of any of the measures they've taken up there working at all or anything else that needs to be done? And a second question I had was, in terms of the the state's report on cases and educational institutions, it seems like there's still a gap between what the state is reporting and what individual campuses are reporting. Especially when it came to UAE and Arkansas State wanted to see if Dr. Romero could have explained. I guess what, why is there that gap? And is there anything that's being worked on to have those numbers?
More, more more reflective
figure out which you know which one is the more accurate figure?
Doctor marriage or Dr. Sima, who's the right one to tackle the
Yes, great question about the educational institutions. You know, we have set up processes to get the information from our points of contact to various educational institutions as quickly as humanly possible. Unfortunately, there is still a little bit of a delay. So that could impact why there are different numbers that are being reported out by each individual campus as opposed to what we are reporting on our report. Now also of no we update a report every Monday and Thursday. I'm not entirely sure how often the campuses update their report with that. count for some differences as well.
So that was a good segue into what I was going to say. So the report documents that there are less active cases at the Fayetteville campus from from this most recent. So from that we're seeing that it looks like it's coming under control.
Yes. done in the schools
that were not already doing that kid reduced the number of close contacts to prevent all of these staff and students into quarantine.
That is a very timely question, because that issue has been raised by school superintendents as well as parents. And this is where they are wearing a mask, but they're not able to be six feet apart. And so because of that close contact, there's still a requirement for quarantine. I have decided This link with Dr. Romero. And we also looked at the CDC guidelines. And the challenge is the CDC guidelines are clear that it should be both distance as well as wearing a mask. And, and so I know the schools are challenged because they can't have that social distancing in every classroom. And it means that you're having to have the more students than what you would like to be quarantine. We still want to work through this. And so we're seeing if there's any options whatsoever, but the CDC guidelines are very clear on that point. And we also want to be very careful, we've had a good start thus far, but we don't want to take any steps that increase the exposure in the schools. So safety is the ultimate goal that we have. But we see if there's any way that we can balance that to greater To reduce the number of students or those that might be exposed, Dr. Romero place.
So while this six foot mandate seems somewhat onerous, it's important to note that we are not seeing transmission in the schools. What we're seeing is these individuals that are diagnosed most likely from the community, but we're not seeing if you will fall out from those cases. And I think that goes to this issue of maintaining the distance and maintaining the quarantine, because the mask itself, but either having it on if you are infected, doesn't mean that you won't transmit it. And the mask, having it on if you're not infected is not a protective measure. So I think we're showing that it does work. I'm sorry. I would have to get you that information.
Right. Next question.
Governor this is Chad Mayor with K NWA news. I have a question for Dr. Romero. Over the past 10 days do you have as reported about 750 cases of COVID-19. But then it says there's about 330 that are currently active. I was wondering if you could give us a reminder of how you classify a recovered case. And if it's normal for that many people to recover so quickly.
So recovered cases defined as time from positive test onward or symptoms onward. So if you remain a positive case, for 14 days after the infection, if you are, if you don't have disease, 10 days if you have the disease, and if you have severe disease, it's 21 days. So again, with rolling off of that of the of the list, I would have to go and look specifically at those numbers, but they don't seem out of the norm. So I think that's, that's probably okay.
For two months from now, when supplies run out the plan?
And the answer is we plan to get more very pleased. It's rare for us to have a two month stockpile in advance during this pandemic. And so that gives us confidence that that supply chain will continue. And we had to work it we had to work through a number of different ways to make sure that Splott those supplies came to Arkansas, but I'm optimistic that even after the two months supply that we'll be able to continue to get the antigen testing equipment or supplies. Last question.
Seems like since school started again, we've had kind of we had a little bit of an uptake, and it's kind of at a sustained higher level, which seems like it's been driven by the colleges. So why is that are called students not following the guidelines or what's going on there?
Well, I think what we see from our college students is that the environment on the college campus is very similar to the environment in our K through 12 educational system where you've got a high level of compliance, you've got a supervision that's there, you've got people that are making sure all of the rules and safety measures are followed. What's different is that on the college campuses, you've got a lot of other activity that happens outside of the educational environment. And and you see That in, in very reckless ways sometimes. And I think with the actions of the universities, they crack down on that they've utilized their ability to help guide behavior in a more positive way off campus. And that, I think you're starting to see some results of that. So I'm, you know, if you look at what we thought was going to happen, when we started and where we are now, I think you have to say it's been a very successful start to school both at the higher education level as well as K through 12. But there's no guarantee as to what's going to happen in the next couple months. That's what's challenging about this pandemic is it is unpredictable. All we know is that we have certain things under our control, and that is our behavior. And we keep focusing on that because that does make a difference. Thank you very much.