Ark. Governor, state leaders announce 96 confirmed coronavirus cases, intent to cancel ACT Aspire testing

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith announced Friday there are 96 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state.

This is the biggest single-day increase of cases, but state officials say it was expected with increased testing.

As of Friday afternoon, eight of the confirmed cases are children, 62 are adults aged 19-64 and 26 are adults that are 65 and older.

Dr. Nate Smith said out of the confirmed cases, 71 percent are white, 17 percent are African American and 12 percent are other races.

According to Dr. Nate Smith, there are slightly more women than men who have confirmed cases.

State officials say some of those cases are in three nursing homes- Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, one patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in Apple Creek Nursing Home and Rehab and The Villages of General Baptist West. Thirteen cases, both patients and staff, tested positive at Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab.

Dr. Smith says ADH is working to separate nursing home residents and staff who test positive for the coronavirus.

ADH is screening all other staff and residents for COVID-19 at Briarwood and ADH staff are onsite at Briarwood.

Two nursing home residents have been hospitalized, but for other issues, according to Dr. Smith.

State officials say the patient in the Pine Bluff nursing home came into contact with a medical worker who got the virus from the original patient in Pine Bluff.

The governor also announced the state will give $30 million for personal protective equipment in Arkansas. The $30 million will come for the revenue stabilization fund, and hospitals will pay it back, according to the governor.

Education Commissioner Johnny Key announced Friday that the state has applied for a federal waiver to cancel ACT Aspire testing. This will also impact testing kindergarteners, second graders and students with learning disabilities. Key says there will be a long-term impact of canceling the testing, but officials are analyzing how much of an impact. He says the cancellation of testing will not have an impact on funding next year.

Key also announced partnerships to help with learning the core curriculum. The education commissioner says the Department of Education has partnered with Arkansas PBS for programming that will air in the mornings starting Monday, March 30. He also announced ADE has partnered with Virtual Arkansas for lessons for high school freshmen to seniors.

Key said the Department of Education is working county-by-county to find safe learning zones so students can have internet access.

Key also asked Arkansas broadband providers to work with schools to provide hot spots or expand services.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday she is committing $3 million more for small business loans. The $3 million will come from the settlement fund. The governor had committed $4 million earlier. The total amount committed is $7 million.

According to the governor, the SBA has indicated the state has been approved for a small business disaster declaration to help.

Rutledge said her office has received 185 complaints for price gouging. There are 24 active investigations. Rutledge says some of the complaints were jokes on social media.

Attorney General Rutledge also wanted to warn Arkansans that the Health Department and CDC are not going door-to-door to test for coronavirus. Rutledge says if someone comes to your home, “send them packing and call law enforcement.”

The attorney general also warned there were thousands of fake websites that are phishing scams.

According to Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Cam Patterson, the number of ventilators we have in the state serves what we need and also extra.

Dr. Patterson says he’s more concerned if ventilators are in the right place at the right time, and said they would move assets to hospitals who need them.

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