210119_COVID-19 Press Briefing
8:27PM Jan 19, 2021
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Secretary Johnny Key (ADE)
Brett Rains - 40/29
Alex Burch - KATV
Samantha Boyd - KNWA
David Ramsey - ANNN
Col. Robert "Gator" Ator
long term care
Thank you for joining me for today's weekly COVID update. I'm pleased to be joined by Dr. Romero, our Secretary of Health, as well as Secretary Johnny Key from Education. And then we also have Colonel Ator here, who's our program manager for our vaccination effort. And let me start back at a little bit more traditional way, which is starting with our case report. And if we can go to our first graph, which really has some good news there, because you can see right in the middle that our total new cases is 1331. And while that's a high number that is significantly lower than it was a week ago, and our active cases, the next line, you can see is declined by 1854. And that is a relief. The lagging indicator, which is a saddest part of it is that we've had 43 additional deaths. And we need to remember that that is a reflection of the cost of the COVID spread, and ultimately where a certain percent of the cases lead. Whenever you look at the top left, it's the confirmed cases that we see 841 confirmed cases and we had 490 new probable cases through an antigen test. In terms of our testing, we've done 1300 approximately of both PCR and antigen test, we see that I don't know whether it will wait and see whether it is the demand that is declining on that somewhat because of our pressure is being reduced. But that is a little bit lower than it was a week ago, in terms of hospitalizations we're up to and then the ventilator is down seven. And you can see the top counties there as well. And I think the if you go to the next one, you'll see this in graph form, which is a seven day rolling average of our confirmed and probable cases combined. And certainly you can see that trend line is pointing downward. And some of those will be backfield a little bit. But that is good news, we have to be mindful that we've had some dips in the past and it surges up. We don't want that to happen again. And then the next one, you see the hospitalizations, that's reflecting the fact that we've had a number of days in the last week that we've had a reduction hospitalizations and our meeting today with our COVID winter Task Force. They all indicate that it's better, it's manageable, but we're still increasing our capacity at the same time, not knowing what the rest of this month and next month will be like. Our next one is our active cases, again, which already indicated is reflection of people recovering and our new cases coming on board is not as high as it has been in the past. This is a week by week Look at this. And if you look at over the last two weeks, there's been a 25% decline in our new case growth. And so we're very pleased with that. Hopefully, that trend will continue. And then the next one is the seven day rolling average of positive case we've seen it go down a little bit actually consistently go down but it goes down like a point. Point 10 every every day. Hopefully that will continue that will flatten out at the bottom whenever more cases come in over those reporting days. But clearly, it makes it a little bit of progress and positivity, but still way too high. In terms of our CDC guidance,
and this is the one look at our public health regions across the state. And you can see that while we're going straight up for a number of weeks, whenever you look at the top one is the Northwest region, the orange one, we've had a significant decline in new cases. Whenever you look at the central region, you've had a decline, the blue and Northeast decline. And then they're lower in which is the good news but they're more flat in terms of Southeast and southwest but at a much lower level of new cases. And so everybody be mindful that first of all, we still have the virus in every part of the state. Our new cases are still significantly high. Even though they're Less than they were two weeks ago, and that we're going to continue to have challenges until our vaccination is permeating our society and population here in Arkansas. And that brings me to the vaccinations. To bring you up to date on this, this is today's report we've received as you can see an additional 18,600 doses and whenever we receive a new shipment, then that means our inventory has increased. And we've got to work hard to get those in the arms of people, doses given today is a good high of 13,647. So well done pharmacies and hospitals and those that are receiving the doses. And for the state plan that we have control over 50.3% of our doses are out. If you look at our long term care, that is the federal partnership that we don't have as much control over that is lagging behind. But they have assured me that they have schedules with different long term care facilities to do the vaccination in the coming days. And that that will be completed by the end of by the end of the month, which is what our goal was, we are going to have some extra doses there that we're working with our our federal partners to make sure that we get this into our communities and out. We're trying to accelerate that the colonel is working on that daily. And you can see our current phase one B, who we're doing, and that's all over the website as well. And then we want to do because the most frequently asked question is, how do I know where to go to get a vaccination. So if you are in the priority group 70. Plus, if you're a teacher, the teacher should go a course to their superintendent to know what the plan is. But if you're 70, plus, you want to know information about where to get a vaccine. So you go to the Department of Health website, and this is what you'll see. And then they've made it simple, you simply click for COVID-19 vaccine information. And that will take you to another page in which I'm going to walk over here. So I'm point at it, you can see the list of one a and one B pharmacies that you can click on and that will take you to the exact map, it will have a listing of all of them. And then a map of where they are that you click on the map, it'll give you the address. And so in addition to the pharmacies will be saving information from time to time about greater mass vaccination clinics that are being hailed, you can learn that from your community, your pharmacy might be advertising or your hospital, follow their websites, but you can also get that information on our Department of Health website. In addition, if you go to the gov.arkansas.gov, you have the same information that can link to that Department of Health website, so many different ways to get that information. And with that, if you go to the next one, the next one, I want to set the stage for a Dr. Romero to come. I've asked him to talk about the new strain that we see in different parts of the globe. That is starting to come to different states in Arkansas. And I wanted him to talk about what that means what we need to watch out for and how we're going to detect it if one of the new strains come here to our state. Dr. Merrill.
Thank you, Governor. So let me begin by saying that these strains are normal. These are variants they will arise during the course of the of a viral infection. And because this is a pandemic, we can see various variants throughout the world. The variant we are now concerned about and has been listed as top on the list by the CDC is a variant that came from a Great Britain. It is already here in this country, in our 10 states that are reporting it. We are actively looking for this virus, we can detect it using our diagnostic tests, and then have those specimens sent to the CDC for further analysis. We have already sent specimens to the CDC, which were suspicious, they have not come back as positive and they're still at the current moment, eight specimens in on in the CDC to be sequenced. The virus will eventually get here. It's just a matter of time. What the CDC predicts is that by March, this virus will be the predominant virus in the United States. These changes these variants have different degrees of fitness just like a runner, and the more fit the virus, the more able it is to train As MIT itself and to propagate itself within the population, this particular virus is quite a transmissible. It's about 50 to 70 times more transmissible than the current virus in our environment, which means that we have a greater chance of infecting another individual if we are positive, and we expose each other to the virus. But that doesn't mean that we can't prevent it, we can prevent it by using the three W's, which you've heard me say over and over again, wear the mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. We know that these viruses will continue to to arise. I think that in the future, one of our big concerns is that this could lead to another spike in the number of cases, because of the transmissibility, it also impacts our vaccine program. Because in order to really bring the virus under control, we're going to have to have larger numbers of individuals vaccinated. So it impacts on multiple aspects. We can, as I said before, detected. The two other areas I want to talk about is the activity of the virus. Sorry, the vaccine against the virus. Currently, from what we have discussed with that is the ACP has discussed with vaccine manufacturers, it appears that the current vaccine is active against this particular virus. So that seems to be doing well. And we won't have a problem with that. But it could mutate or change over time. There are other viruses. Some people may have heard of a virus that's coming from Brazil with as we have not seen it here, nor have we seen another virus from South Africa, but the one from Brazil is not as susceptible to monoclonal antibodies that we are using actively in our state and are making a difference. So we will keep you abreast of this. But we do have the means of controlling it. And it is as simple as wearing a mask washing your hands and watching your distance. So I'll end here and turn this over to Secretary keep Forgive me to the governor.
Thank you, Dr. Morrow, thank you, Governor. Today I want to announce the rollout of a new resource that we are providing to schools and to the communities around the state of Arkansas. In light of COVID-19. Many of our students and their families found themselves in needs of need of wraparound support or support services that sometimes are needed to help students be successful. This has really been a challenge to us for those students that do not come to school that do not come to on for on site instruction that are trying to succeed in remote learning. And in many cases, the challenges that they face become a barrier to academic success. So we partnered with the Department of Human Services to create a statewide community resources portal. The portal as displayed here, website at the bottom of this slide can be accessed and used by schools, community organizations and all our Kansans to locate specific supports within or near their community. When this is fully built out, all counties will be represented here with a wide range of supports, including food security, clothing, closets, physical mental health supports and other types of supports. This list will continue to grow. As we get more community organizations that say, Hey, I have something that I can contribute to this, they will be able to partner with us to get their resource listed. If you look at the top of the right hand of the slide, under resource links, there is a place in the drop down where community organizations can submit their information so that they can be included on this list. Currently, there are over 50 categories of supports that are available. And we know that this will be critical, not just during this time of COVID, but even afterward to help our students and their families get the types of support that they need. The second thing I want to announce today regarding the COVID emergency leave, as has been reported, at the end of December, we fully expended all of the cares Act funds that had been allocated for the COVID emergency leave, and we had $4.6 million in additional claims. We have just recently learned that our s are two funds. This is the new round of federal funding can be used to offset those costs. So we will be seeking the appropriation from the General Assembly for 4.6 dollars form from the state set aside investor to to be able to meet those outstanding claims from the COVID emergency leave. That will close the books on 2020. And then districts and we as we've encouraged previously from this podium, we've encouraged districts to continue some type of COVID emergency leave using They're the funds that they are receiving from the latest round of S or two. That completes my report. gov.
sec Turkey. And finally, before I turn over questions I wanted to emphasize today and we'll emphasize it next week, that in February, we're going to have the Super Bowl. And whenever you look at the Super Bowl, which occurs on February 7, that is a time of parties is a time of getting together. And we need to start thinking now that we do not want to repeat a circumstance in which we have an increase in cases again, because of close contact. And so I encourage everyone to rethink their Super Bowl party atmosphere. Let's avoid large gatherings. Let's make sure we're careful. So we don't see the spike in cases that we've seen previously. We'll talk more about that next week. And with that, we'll turn it over for questions.
So what why are CVS and Walgreens still getting more allocation when they when they have in benefits?
Because it's on a federal contract. So that's the federal government contracted with CVS and Walgreens. And they're they're allocated those doses based upon what we saw as the census and our long term care facilities. But because we've had a decline lately in our long term care facilities, in terms of the numbers, there's an excess number of doses that really have been allocated. So we're working hard. First of all that number there, hopefully that will be given out in the next two weeks as we, as they have clinics scheduled as they work with their long term care facilities to get them vaccinated. But we know that we're going to have extra there. And that's what Colonel ater is working on to make sure that that will get to our local pharmacies. correlator. Do you have anything to add to that?
Thank you, sir. You know, just as the governor said that the allocation was based off of licensed beds with a straight ratio for, for the staff to support those beds. That occupancy rate was not there. So it was an over allocation. So by the end of this month, we should be pretty close to being done with that that long term care facility program, the federal program, and we're currently working with our two partners, Walgreens and CVS to reclaim those doses. And we hope to within the next week or so to actually turn them loose on the one bee population and getting it into the arms of our Kansans.
Is there any question remotely?
Yeah, this is Alex wood. My question is regarding the new strain. With it being so much more transmissible does that mean it will be more likely for spread to happen in public places like schools, restaurants and bars, and if and when that happens without warrants stricter health guidelines.
So the transmissibility is dependent upon not using the mask and not distancing. So it in the right setting, that is if we continue to use the physical means to prevent spread, we should keep it under control. It's only in those circumstances. But as I see it, now, if we can maintain good masking, I don't think there have to be any changes in our current scheme for management of restaurants and bars, etc. But I'll leave that up to the governor to comment on.
I think Dr. merrow got it exactly. That can be handled. If we do it with our mask and our social distancing. And following our guidelines, the key is following our guidelines. Next question, Governor, this
is Amanda Boyd with K NWA. I've heard of a few school districts in Northwest Arkansas who did not receive the number of vaccines they expected or hoped to receive. And I'm wondering, is there a shortage all of a sudden or they're not enough vaccines to meet what larger district districts need right now like Springdale schools, for example?
Well, I haven't talked to Springdale schools while I've talked to other school districts in Northwest Arkansas, and they are coordinating with a hospital or with a pharmacy for a vaccination clinic. Have a large number of their staff. And the in one instance, the pharmacy expected 2000 doses, and they did not receive that amount. And they have to wait until we you It's one thing to request an allocation. The second thing is to receive that from the state. Because we have a limited supply. Everybody does not get what they have requested. And so we have to have very close and tight communication as to what is available at a pharmacy and what is available for these vaccination clinics. So we don't overly increase expectations to too high of a level. And so we're working through that. Everybody has to be patient, because when you have a limited supply, and you have a large state to cover a large lot of school districts, nobody expected that we would have all of the teachers vaccinated within one week. And right now we're in our second day. And so we've got a lot more work to do. There'll be more vaccines coming in, and we'll get all of them vaccinated. They just have to be patient to make sure we get it scheduled the right way.
Governor, this is David Ramsey with the Arkansas nonprofit News Network. Regarding the situation with the vaccines, with Walgreens and CVS, I understand the over allocation issue that you described, I guess, can you comment on on what went wrong just in terms of actually getting the relevant folks vaccinated at the long term care facilities? What the holdup was why that why that didn't happen?
Why that wasn't accomplished sooner? Well, they that I think actually, it's it's worked well, thus far, if you remember, our goal was to have all of our long term care facilities vaccinated by the end of January. And while that is still a work in progress, we felt comfortable enough with our progress in the vaccination that we could open up to two categories of one B, and add them to the mix. And so we're really ahead of schedule in terms of accomplishing those goals. Now, in terms of the long term care facilities, as I've mentioned before, it's a little bit more complicated than just someone coming in and, and health care worker or somebody 70. Plus, when you're in the long term care facility, you have to have consents, in many instances. And so that's been a little bit of slower process. But the clinics are scheduled, you have to have everything in place. And I have been a little disappointed in some of not moving quicker. That's why the colonel is here with with a strong leadership arm to say let's get it done. This is really important. And they're working hard to do it is just we're able to control our state contracts and our State Initiative. But whenever you have the federal contract that some of the pharmacies, the long term care facilities went with, we just don't have as much control there.
Good afternoon as Brett rains with 4029 News, three quick questions. First, the alternative care facilities we know Baptist Health Van Buren, their first phase, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, something like 44 beds ready to go. What are those stands? Are they being utilized at this time? What do we see for the future with those? And second of their topics, capital security of head of inauguration day tomorrow? And lastly, we thought you might be in Washington today. Are you heading out soon and still planning on being their governor?
Yep. On the alternative care sites, I had a report on that today. With our COVID winter taskforce, Troy wells of Baptist Health CEO indicated that they are ready to open today if the need was there. And I'm talking about a certain number of the beds. And so it is on schedule it probably a little bit ahead of schedule, and we expect those beds to be available as needed. In terms of the Capitol security. We had some precautions here in place of the state capitol on Sunday, when there was rally scheduled there was not any problem. We continue to follow the intelligence we will have extra security that is seen and unseen that will be available as needed. Hopefully it will not be dated, but we have everything in place to make sure that the capital is secure, and that there's not any damage to our property or to personnel here we're taking extra precautions To make sure that's the case. And yes, as soon as I finished with the last question today, I'll be headed to Washington DC for the inauguration tomorrow of President Elect Biden. So that is still on my schedule, and it's still something I intend to do. Any other questions? You good, Andy. All right, Carl, did you Are you good? All right. With that, thank you all very much. Have a great afternoon.