Friday, September 4, 2020

This transcript was auto transcribed by


cases, students, antigen test, romero, campus, governor, terms, community, arkansas, hospitalizations, testing, days, positivity, additional, county, deaths, important, protests, positive, white


Jaime Weiss – 40/29 News, The Daily Citizen – Searcy, Neal Gladner, Cole Zimmerman – 40/29 News, Dr. Jose Romero, John Moritz – ADG, Governor Asa Hutchinson

Governor Asa Hutchinson  00:01

Thank you. Thank you for joining me today for today’s day, daily COVID-19 update. I was presented this mask by Rich In Tone Calls, duck calls, we’re 78 days away from duck season and I thought that might be a good reminder as we go into Labor Day, and I know that we’ve got dove season that’s even before that, but I appreciate Rich In Tones giving me this mask today. Welcome to Dr. Jose Romero. As is our custom we had a meeting with some of the community leaders, hospital administrators, education leaders, business leaders here in White County, along with the members of the General Assembly all join in a discussion about how we’re doing here in White County, across the state in terms of our COVID response and what we can do better. I’m very pleased to be on the campus of Unity Health White County Regional Medical Center has been a great host for us today, and also a great partner, as we have combated COVID over the last five and six months. I appreciate Mayor Osbourne and his hospitality today, as well as everyone else.  Let’s go to the cases. This is a fairly dramatic exclamation point to end this week. And to start the holiday weekend, it should serve as a reminder to us and the challenge that we’re continued to be in. But it also reflects some extraordinary testing numbers. So we not only have the highest number of new cases that we’ve had, but we’ve had the highest number of testing results that we’ve had over 24 hours. And so we have 1094 new cases that we Have as a result of COVID-19. That brings us to 64,175 cases. In terms of hospitalizations, we have a 24 fewer that are hospitalized. That brings us to 401. Which again, is really good news. I look at that gap from where we were at 520 and our peak of hospitalizations in Arkansas, we’re down to 401. That gives us the space to make sure that we have the hospital capacity. Sadly, we have 12 additional deaths of Arkansans, that brings us to 873. Let me spend just a moment on the new cases of 1094. First of all, that’s the result… We’ve had testing over the last 24 hours of 11,254. That’s an extraordinary number of tests that have come in and we’ll show more details on that But in terms of new cases of 1094, Washington County lead with 215. Similar to yesterday of the 215 new cases, 82% were in the 18 to 24 year old category. In other words, the college age students. We had in Craighead County 47 new cases, and 43% of those were in the 18 to 24 range. And of course, since we’re here in White County, I should add that the rate of college-going kids that have active cases or positive cases is very low. And that’s a tribute to Harding University that’s here, and how they’ve managed this and I applaud them for that.  Let me go back to the graphs here. Let’s look at this. And as you can see on that last bar graph, first of all, you can see that most of our community cases, but we do have that tip in white. That is reflects correctional cases. And that is combining those two, the highest date that we’ve had and the number of cases that go on to the seven-day rolling average. Obviously, you have an upswing when you have that kind of height in cases in one day. And then the currently number of hospitalized as I indicated, is down right at the 400 level, you can see where we were at the peak. The number of active cases in Arkansas, these are the positive cases less those that have been considered recovered. And that’s up some, but way away from where we were at the height. And this is the positivity rate, which we always look at and this goes to our antigen test. So let me stop here. Just for Second on our antigen test, I indicated we’re going to be reporting these separately. And so we have 600 antigen test, in addition to the 11,254 PCR test, and so those antigen test 111 were positive 489 negative, which is 18.5% positivity, right. And you can see how that varies. But the antigen test, people are getting a quick turn around, within 15 minutes, they get the test results. And so they go in there, more likely to be positive because they’re sent there for that reason. And then if you go to the next one, this is the seven-day rolling average of percent positive tests in Arkansas, from June 20, to the present and you can see here again that are 10% positive right, which we always try to try to stay below and this is encouraging to us. We are below that. Now as you know that that tail that goes down right now is going to lift up a little bit, but it’s still flat below that 10% mark. And these are the PCR test by date of result and testing type facility, I just wanted you to be able to see again, where we are on our testing, which shows that we are at that record level for testing. And once again, it’s our department of health labs, which is the white shows a significant amount of work that they’re doing. But look at the commercial labs that came in. And I think this is what we’re going to see from time to time. The commercial lab seems to be coming in in batches. And so some days like this, we get batches and doesn’t mean all those test results, want to make sure I get that right, by date of test result, and so these tests that are coming in will show could have been results on previous days that right, Dr. Romero? Just want to make sure I had that right. But they but you can see the the vast number that we got over the last 24 hours. And then the seven, this is by region and I like to show this from time to time. We’re in the North East region. Even though you’re in the Second Congressional District, you’re in the Northeast region in terms of public health regions. And this is important to note, the top graph or the top line in the Orange is the Northwest region. And so the Northwest region which had its peak and we brought that down, you can see over the last few days that it’s edging back up, and so we got to watch that very carefully. I’ll report on that a little bit more in a second and Then you have the blue is the North East region. And here you can see that it went up, but it is on a right trend path. So we like that in the Northeast region in the southwest region, you see that in the light green, that’s in a good pattern central is in the yellow. And you can see that is up and down. But it’s also a little bit down from the last last week, so that’s in a better line right now as well. So again, this lets us know the regions that we need to be watching very carefully. And this gives you the 14 day moving average for percent positivity by county, and obviously wer’re in White County, so I wanted to show the 8.2% positivity right here over the last 14 days, which is the relevant time period. You can see Washington County is still at 7% Benton County 6.1%. But as the that rate goes up, that could trend upward as well. So some of those positivity rates are really looking good Pulaski County 6.2%. These are encouraging whenever you’re looking at K through 12 going to school and what is in the community. White County according our statistics has 13 covid hospitalizations, we’ve had 12 deaths here through the pandemic as a total and we have 84 active cases.  Now let me come back and say a word about to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. I had a good conversation with Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz earlier today, and he understands what he’s facing on the campus. And they’re taking some very quick action to address that and they have a very strong protocols in place for testing. They’ve been testing a large number of students and some of those, as we can see here, in the results, but he is taking some action. And they have announced today and he shared with me that they are banning as a university banning all gatherings on and off campus of 10 or more. And so this is an admonition to the students that even if you’re living off campus, under the student code of conduct, you have to follow the school’s rules. And there’s consequences for not doing that. And Chancellor assignments emphasize that they would use the Student Code of Conduct to assure compliance and try to obtain compliance by the students. So I’m encouraged by that. And when you have 24,000 students there, that’s a lot to manage. Many of them will be there over the weekend. This will go into effect. And I think it’s a good step to help control that on the campus. I also spoke with Mayor Lionel Jordan of Fayetteville, and he wanted me to be able to share with the public that he is devoting additional law enforcement resources, patrol officers compliance officers for different areas, including Dickson Street, just to remind the students and others that might be there socially distance, may wear a mask, behave yourself and to avoid the spread. And so these are really strong efforts leadership on their part and I applaud them for it. And with that, I think that we’ll be setting the stage for a good weekend that I know Dr. Romero will have an additional comment on Dr. Romero.

Dr. Jose Romero  11:59

Thank you, Governor. Thank you. All for having me here, I will add a little bit more detail to the numbers. In addition to the hospitalizations, we have information on the number of individuals requiring a ventilator. And that also has gone down by five individuals and we have 86 individuals using a ventilator, which is further decrease and increases are reserved if necessary. As mentioned, we’ve had 57,547 individuals who have recovered. This is an increase of 658. The testing has been discussed by the governor to point out just that the Arkansas public health lab tested 22,481 specimens in the last 24 hours. And of course, the commercial laboratories gave us a big boost with well over 1000 specimens with regard To the counties. Let me begin again with Washington County with 215 cases in the last 24 hours. And as mentioned by the Governor 82% were from college age individuals, ages 18 through 24. This was followed by polaski who as we have a 987 cases, Benton is in third with 56 Craighead is mentioned by the governor in fourth, Jefferson 24 and Sebastian 21. With regard to the deaths, we have no clustering of any deaths. Yesterday, I mentioned a nursing home but we have none at today’s report, and two of the deaths are from July, so they’re late entries. So I’ll stop with the analysis of numbers at this time and just simply make the following statement. We’re coming up on a three day holiday. This is for us in public health, very anxiety provoking period because we know that You all want to sort of let loose a little bit just want to remember remind the public that it’s important that you continue to maintain what we’ve talked about all along, that is the social distancing, the using of the mass and the sanitation, we are starting to see these cases in the in the colleges, we want to keep them from spreading out of that area. And so it’s very important that we also as the general public as we go out to our parks, to our lakes, that we continue to use the masks and social distance. And again, I directed comments to college and university students the last two days, I will again, direct my final words to them, please, we need your help. You are part of our communities. And as part of our communities, we would ask you to please adhere to those guidelines that have we have worked so hard to drive, the incidence rates are down in many of these counties, and we’d hate to see them go back up again. So thank you very much. And I will turn this back over to the governor.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  15:06

Thank you, Dr. Romero. And with that we’ll take any questions

The Daily Citizen – Searcy  15:08

In regard to the Beebe retirement center having several cases, Do y’all step in and try to help nursing homes that have a lot of cases? What kind of support? Do you give them?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  15:22

A significant amount of help. It’s been a very good partnership between the Department of Health and our nursing homes and the Arkansas Health Care Association. And so we routinely go in if there’s positive cases, we’ll test everyone including the staff. Of course, there’s restrictions on visitors which we’re trying to make sure that we can’t have family visiting, but you have to have free of positive cases for 28 days. And so we monitor that very carefully and work with him very closely on the testing and and the follow up. federal marriage. Do you have anything There. Are there any questions from a remote distance? governor, this is Andrew with AP. wanted to ask you heading into this weekend. Yeah. You and Dr. Romero have given warnings about yourself social distancing, avoiding large, large gatherings, especially towards the towards the college students. How are you going to measure whether or not you’ve been successful with those warnings? And I guess kind of what are you going to be watching for? And if if the numbers either either don’t improve or get significantly worse, what steps are you willing to willing to look at in terms of further measures for the restrictions? And are you looking at ones that would be statewide or that would be focused on specific regions like focused on Fayetteville? Now there’s not any consideration right now of any additional Wide restrictions because our targeted approach has been very effective. And we want to be able to continue to do that. Whenever you look, again, let’s let’s think through in terms of large university campus, Dr. Fauci made the point that the last thing you want to do is to send all of those students home. Because that really would add to the spread of any virus versus being a an environment. That is something you can put restrictions in, you can help guide the behavior to a greater extent. And so they’re doing the right approach. And I was very impressed with my call with the Chancellor today and the mayor. They understand the challenge that they face and these measures that they’re taking, particularly utilizing the code of conduct for the students really gives them an opportunity to get a handle on This quickly. And so that’s what we have to look at what do we measure? Obviously, you know the number of cases that’s on campus, but we also look at their ability to do the contact tracing and to isolate students that have positivity. We’re not that worried about what’s happened on campus because that’s a controlled atmosphere. A lot of it is what happens outside of the campus. And that is the the testing and the tracing is done, as well as the community which is very committed to making sure the guidelines are followed in the community restaurants, other activities that are there. So what that’s how we measure it, but we believe our approach to a targeted approach to where we have these outbreaks of cases is the right approach. Dr. Romero and I will be having additional discussions with universities that have been impacted with this next week to see what kind of additional support we can give and whether there’s any other additional steps that should be taken. And I will add this. Now go ahead.

Jaime Weiss – 40/29 News  19:07

Hey, Governor, this is Jamie Weiss with 40/29. I want to ask you given a lot of thought and talked a lot about your concern with college students, we know that there’s two days of protests planned in Clarksville this weekend, do crowds out those types of events concern you since we’ve seen protests since the summer?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  19:26

Well, in terms of protest, we recognize that’s a reality of our freedoms, and also the time in which we live. And so we just ask if you’re going to protest, do it lawfully. Don’t destroy property. And thirdly, be smart about it. wear a mask, and, and socially distance and that’s what we need. You know, obviously, when you’re looking at the crowds over the holiday weekends, it’s important whether it’s a family atmosphere or whether it is a larger social atmosphere. Just be careful about it. So that’s what we would expect if there are protests peaceful, and to make sure you protect others as you go about that.

Cole Zimmerman – 40/29 News  20:16

Governor, this is Cole with 4029 News. Do you think the suspension of events at the U of A is going to play a big effect into containing the virus around campus in that 18 to 24 age range you’ve been discussing? And a follow up to that is why would it be safe for athletics together for instance, but not other clubs or gatherings?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  20:36

Well, the the athletics has been a good story thus far with my understanding. The last report I had, they did not have palsy cases within the athletic community, and they have a more controlled environment. They have you know, a great deal of activity that is dependent upon having success and fighting COVID so They understand that we hope that they continue to be successful. I think that’s a totally different atmosphere that we have to control. From a public standpoint, when you’re looking at attendance at a stadium, which will be limited or whether you’re looking at what happens on the athletic field, in terms of the, the student bodies, you know, the Code of Conduct makes a difference. The enforcement of that, and it’s going to take a community effort. We value the students that are there. They they come, they get a great education there. They’re a big part of Arkansas life, but we expect them to step up to the plate and do well because they need to finish this year. They need to make sure that they protect the health not just to themselves and fellow students, but the community as well. I in talking with Chancellor Steinmetz, he has Other actions that he can take, that’s in his pocket that he will release if he needs to be. So we reviewed the plan. I think they have a good plan. Obviously, it’s not a surprise when you look at what’s happening across the country that there are cases on a college campus. And the larger the campus, the more possibility and likelihood of that happening.

Neal Gladner  22:25

Good afternoon, Governor, it’s Neal Gladner in Hot Springs. You mentioned glad to see the 24 hospitalization cases go down because it gives you more capacity. If you combine the PCR and the antigen test over the last couple of days, it’s well over 2000 cases, is there a medical predictive model of what that’s going to mean the hospitalizations two weeks from now?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  22:48

I’m gonna ask Dr. Romero. I think he’s ready for that question. He’s given me the nod. So come on.

Dr. Jose Romero  22:58

It’s so we don’t have a model for predicting that exactly. But what we can tell you is that when we see and when we have seen increases in cases, we see hospitalizations increase. So it’s only expected that in the next two weeks, we will see more cases hospitalized. We… will not shock us and will not take us by surprise. So I think that this is the best answer.

Neal Gladner  23:28

Do you expect, Dr. Romero, that it might be a little bit lower just because there are so many youthful positives?

Dr. Jose Romero  23:36

So, Neal, you bring up a very good point. Yes, it is possible that because it’s happening in younger individuals, these seem to be college-age students. It could it could be less, but let me point out for anybody that is in that age group, we have seen deaths in that age group in the 18 to 24, not both nationally and within our state. So being young and healthy, is not a guarantee that you will not develop severe disease or have a fatal outcome. And that is very important to keep in mind. You know, as young individuals, there is a sense of, let’s say in more invincibility, and there is a risk from this infection.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  24:19

Next question.

John Moritz – ADG  24:20

Governor with regards to prison releases, you’ve ordered an expedited parole consideration for inmates serving time for non violent non sexual offenses of the 39 prisoners who have died 35 were serving time for violent and sexual offences and of those 23 were aged 60 years or older, you have any plans to consider further releases and when you have that, will they have the same standard regarding violent sexual offenders?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  24:49

Well, that standard is in place and not releasing those you know beyond that, they will be taken on a case by case basis that, you know, there are, you know, humanitarian requests that can be made, all depends upon their, their history, their parole date, their eligibility date. And really it’s first reviewed by the either the parole board or the Department of Corrections in those terms, but my direction was that we ought to look at the early release in terms of those that are non-violent and not sexual offenders, and that are getting closer to their release date. And because of that, we’ve reduced the prison population but we do want to… in primarily so we have space for even the distancing that we need even in that environment.

Cole Zimmerman – 40/29 News  25:48

This is Josh White with KAIT in Jonesboro, speaking about college age kids and what they do off campus, we’ve received several complaints about college age kids going to bars, late night bars and I want to say dance clubs but bars where they do dance to music, and there’s not a lot of mask wearing. We understand that complaints have been put into ADH and nothing really seems to happen.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  26:20

Well, it is important if there is the violation such as you described that that ought to be reported to ADH. We also have our Alcoholic Beverage Control officers that are patrolling and doing inspections based upon COVID compliance. I get that report every week. I look through that and there’s been a number of citations that have been issued. And so I want to make sure that everyone knows that those will be responded to. Dr. Romero, did you have any comment on… And if there’s I know you probably don’t want to file a complaint, but if there’s specific information you can provide to us, then it’ll be easier to follow up on that.  With that, let me say it’s great to be here in Searcy. What a wonderful leadership team you have here. And again, let me express my thanks to the representatives that are here and senators that have been such a great partner as we’ve gone through this pandemic together. Thank you very much.