Tuesday, November 10, 2020

This transcript was auto transcribed by


vaccine, people, guidelines, arkansas, cases, worship, question, governor, romero, churches, state, increase, recommendations, mask, hospitalizations, week, hospitals, additional, continue, pandemic


Andrew DeMillo – AP, Melissa Zygowicz – THV11, Mills Hayes – KATV, Dr. Sonny Tucker, ABSC, Mike McNeil –, Neal Gladner, Emma Claybrook – 40/29, Josh White – KAIT, Samantha Boyd – KNWA, Father Erik Pohlmeier, Dr. Jose Romero, Secretary Johnny Key (ADE), Leslie Peacock – Ark Times, Andy Davis – ADG, Governor Asa Hutchinson

Governor Asa Hutchinson  00:41

And so I’m pleased to be wearing a mask from the Arkansas Center for Nursing that provided this to me and they have one for Dr. Romero and Eddie, you have your mask as well. Thank you for joining me today for the weekly COVID update. I’m pleased to be joined by Dr. Jose Romero of Secretary of Department of Health, Secretary Johnny key of Education. I’m also very honored to have with me today Dr. Sonny Tucker, who is the Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, who also serves on our Economic Recovery Task Force, and also joined by Father Erik Pohlmeier, Pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Little Rock. And I’ve appreciated my visit with you earlier. They have some words to share too, about places of worship, and how that needs to be handled and the encouragement that they might provide. So thank you for being with us today as well. Let me start off by saying there’s not any very little good news in today’s numbers. That’s probably not a surprise as we see what’s happening nationally. And also, it’s challenging to know what this means for the future. And so just setting the stage that the numbers aren’t good, the trend is not good. And we have a lot of work to do here in Arkansas, and across the nation. We’re in for a very challenging time. And we just have to remind ourselves every day as to the risk that is out there and the responsibility that we have. And let me start with a case report. Last 24 hours, we’ve had an additional 975 PCR confirmed cases. We’ve had an additional 449 probable cases through antigen test. That gives us a total new cases of 1424. In terms of confirmed deaths, we have four additional deaths. And that is combined to both confirmed and probable and obviously that reduced number is a silver lining but we all know this a lagging indicator and whenever you have high numbers of hospitalization, we also know that that’s probably a temporary respite, and that those numbers are likely to go up regretfully. In terms of our hospitalizations, we have 24 additional hospitalised we have our PCR in antigen testing was strong. It was 7275 PCR tests in 1787 antigen test. That is a summary I will mention I know Dr. Romero will talk about a number of things. Today we see 104 cases in Benton County, you know Pulaski 131, Washington 114 and Benton 104. But I know that we hit 256 positive cases in the Benton County Jail. And so that’s an indication that there’s going to be more cases that will be reported in the coming days you probably were going to ask me about that. But just noting that there will be some laggy numbers it will be coming in from that Correctional Facility. With that, let’s go to the first slide. And I want to do set the stage for Dr. Tucker and Father Pohlmeier on this, and this is the case numbers that are reported from the different counties in which the cases come from places of worship. Now on the legend on In the bottom right, you can see in the dark would be 250 to 300 cases will be the darkest. And then it scales down, the blue is 150 to 200 cases. And so you can see, just from that the number of cases that we’ve seen across Arkansas, in rural communities and urban areas that come from places of worship, and that doesn’t mean people are not being careful, it just simply means that when you have congregates together, there is a risk associated with it. And, and they the vast majority of our places of worship are taking extra precautions and doing a very good job, but there is that risk. And then the next one is a revised guide guidelines that will go up on the Department of Health website, and just want to hit the highlights of it for places of worship. The first one is important. It is possible to worship safely in person, if the ADH guidelines for places of worship are followed. And so we’re not saying don’t go to church or don’t go to the house of worship. You certainly can do that. If the guidelines, you know are followed, masque need to be worn at all times by all congregants and that is a new guideline that we’re encouraging are are places of worship to follow, except those who are exempt under the guidelines mask are the biggest factor that contribute to safe worship. Strict six foot physical distancing applies to everyone aside from family groups, both indoors and outdoors. Unmasked, congregational singing is a primary driver of transmission in churches, even if people are six feet apart, because singing produces aerosols, that can increase the risk of transmission for COVID-19. And so we respect the separation of church and state. They make their decisions on their own governance and how they handle things. But we do provide the guidelines that we asked them to take into consideration from a public health stone standpoint, and they’ve done a remarkable job in respecting those guidelines. And with that, I wanted to ask Dr. Sonny Tucker to come and make comments.

Dr. Sonny Tucker, ABSC  07:37

Thank you, Governor Hutchinson, who said that the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Our churches and faith organizations began this 1000 mile pandemic journey with preparation, intensity and focus. Months and months into this journey, we’ve surpassed the 1000 mile mark and we’re weary and fatigued and tired. When athletes and long distance runners are fatigued and tired, they’re more prone to injured and to injury. When duck hunters are fatigued, they can be prone to go lax on their firearm safety precaution. Our churches and faith organizations like all organizations in society are tired and fatigued. And now we’re looking at months and months into this possibly a no end in sight and an increase in the Coronavirus. So we have to kick in with the safety guidelines. On top of that we’re looking at a holiday season approaching with many opportunities for social gatherings and time to interact. I love governor Hutchinson’s philosophy on our economic recovery and own our faith organizations engage but follow the safety guidelines and precautions. As we move ahead in this holiday season, he has shown incredible support for our churches and faith organizations engage with please go by the guidelines and the safety precautions. We owe him our respect as churches and religious organizations to for the support that he shown us to follow his heart and go by the guidelines. As churches and faith organizations we really respond to to driving motivating factors: Love for God, love for people. When we engage in worship activities and religious activity safely. We show our great respect and love for God by showing respect for the folks that he’s given us to serve. So one of the greatest things we can do as churches and faith organizations is to engage with great safety and great precaution for the great people that God has allowed us to serve and to love. Let’s move ahead during this holiday season. All means safely and with great caution.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  10:03

Thank you, Dr. Tucker. Father.

Father Erik Pohlmeier  10:05

I want to start by saying thank you to Governor Hutchinson, not only for the chance to be here to be able to speak, but also for these guidelines and the ones that have been given all along, when we begin to suspend our worship back in March, we were looking forward to the day that we could return and we’re wanting to have guidance on how we could do that safely. And so I’m grateful for that in representing a large church here, in Little Rock, I can say that that has been of great benefit to us. We have worked hard to implement the wearing of masks, we have worn masks at all times in our churches since we began in May. And that has been to great benefit to us. We’ve been able to maintain our distancing, we’ve even created maps of our church and have been grateful to extra volunteers to usher people to seats so that they can sit at a distance from other people. And we’ve heard various stories about people who want to worship and have some fear about contracting the disease and are grateful for the security that these guidelines provide. We’ve also maintained wearing our masks, while we sing having only a cancer to lead singing, standing behind Plexiglas and therefore helping minimize the spread through those aerosols. And so the the guidelines are great help to us. And I also want to encourage perseverance in our efforts to to observe all of these. Times like this, times like crisis are times when we want to rely on our faith even more. And so the opportunity to worship is of supreme importance for us, not only does it allow us to come together as a community of faith, to find solidarity, in our shared struggle in the face of this pandemic, but also in primarily, it gives us a chance to be strengthened by God Himself, by the God, who has seen every crisis before, a God who understands the difficulties that we feel in our hearts and a God who wants to reassure, and so our worship strengthens us by our presence with God. It also reminds us of our shared difficulty that we we work together to try and overcome. I would also say that it’s a matter for living our faith, as he mentioned, it is about loving God and loving other people. Well, this is a practice that we can put into place when we gather for worship, because it’s not just a question of, do I want to wear a mask or not. But in the practice of charity, in the practice of justice, we need to be conscious of other people, other people who might be more vulnerable than we are, it is an opportunity in a concrete way to practice those aspects of our faith that we profess, the belief that shapes the way we go about living our lives. And so we should certainly maintain that when we are gathering for worship. But our faith is not limited only to when we gather for worship. It’s meant to be something that feeds the way we go about our day-to-day lives. And that idea of charity and justice is something that we have to extend to other people when we are going about in the various public settings of our life. And now it even is asked of us to maintain that charity for our own family members for people that we enjoy being around people that we might have to sacrifice a little time with, for this greater good. And so thank you again, for the chance to be here for the reminder to us of the ways that we can worship so that we can fully benefit from this gift that God gives to us. The strength that he gives the opportunity to bond bind together in our efforts to overcome this pandemic. Always strengthened by the charity and justice that is our calling.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  14:05

Thank you, Father Pohlmeier. grateful for your words, as well as Dr. Tucker’s. And now let’s go to the report in terms of our graphs, we’ll go quickly through these. This is the new confirmed cases and probable cases combined. The confirmed cases of course, are in dark. The white cases are the probable cases and you can see how we’ve shot up from yesterday but just as significant a we shot up from a week ago, and most likely that’s going to go up again tomorrow. Next is the seven-day rolling average. You see the trend line up. That’s all you can say there this is confirmed and probable. And this we like to look at week by week. Again, not good news, how, you know we’d flattened out and actually gone down the previous week. So that gave me hope. But here we shot up again, in terms of week to week. This is our number of active cases, again, on the rise over 10,000 active cases. Our hospitalizations, again are up. It’s over 810. And that’s, I’ve communicated with some of our hospitals, they’re making adjustments, I applaud them. And let me just pause and say, how much I appreciate our doctors, our hospital workers that are doing an extraordinary job over a long period of time. And the way they’re managing this is a great benefit to all Arkansans. But we have got to keep them in mind as we try to control the virus in our own lives. And in our own environment. This is just to give you a flavor of our test, PCR tests are on schedule 87,000, at this point, and then antigen test, we continue to test robustly, over 12,500 at this point. This is the seven-day rolling average of percent positivity, in terms of PCR tests in Arkansas, and you know, the 10% line, and this was back in August that we were right above 10%. And then we consistently work to reduce that. And then we’ve started moving up again, fighting against it. And we’re getting close to that 10% level, again. It’s down a little bit today. But those numbers always go up toward the end, as we get more tests come in on those dates. This is the antigen test positivity that’s always higher, and you can see that. But that’s another concern in our communities is the number of cases and the positivity rate that we’re getting on our testing. This is a little bit of a warning for the future, because I know this is hard to see. But on the last column there, you can see our testing is not as high as it, I mean, it’s high. But you know, if we tested more of the cases very likely would have been more as well. And so I expect to be more tests come in over the next 24 hours as the weekend activity. And those tests start coming in for that. We’d like to show the trend line by region. And you can see the Northwest is the top region that shot up. The blue is the Northeast. Again, they have been sort of mirroring each other Northwest got above them, you’ve got the central and the yellow train line is up there. The only success story there is the Southeast, the red that is down and is staying down. You’ve got the green, which is the Southwest. And that is holding fairly steady. All right, this is just quickly. This is the growth rate in public health region again, just as I indicated, the Northeast is growing at 9.7%, Southwest 8.3%. And then the next one, you’ll see this by age group, it’s not particularly a surprise the older age group 65 and plus is growing at 8.6%. And I say it’s not a surprise. But if you’re 65 Plus, you’ve got reasons to be very, very careful and to protect yourself. So you know the some of this is in the nursing home environment that we’re trying to be careful in. But that’s an age group that has to continually be careful. But you see the zero through 17 is the next leading age group. Young people, you can get it and you don’t know you have it. You’re asymptomatic you think life is normal. And you could be giving that to an elderly person that you love very much. This is this is really just a reference for our website is our positivity by county. And it’s edged up in a number of different counties. Benton counties have at 14% positivity rate. You go down to a Union County 11.1%. Pulaski County is better at 7.2%. If you look at this, it shows you what you’ve got to worry about in your community in terms of the spread. And that concludes that, with that Dr. Romero has been hold standing in the wings for a while.  Dr. Romero, I invite you to come.

Dr. Jose Romero  19:57

Thank you Governor. So I will add a little bit of detail to what the Governor has told you and then touch on some new developments. So, as mentioned the hospitalizations have continued to increase. We are watching this very closely and had been in contact with hospitals in the metro area to see how we are dealing with this. It will probably continue to increase. What we’re seeing is an increased number of cases as a result of the Halloween holiday. The activities that were going that were have gone from that, and this is a harbinger. This is something that we may see even more significantly, as we enter into Thanksgiving and the Christmas and New Year holidays. So we are concerned about this. The number of individuals on a ventilator have increased, they increased by 11 and are at 124. And we are keeping a very close eye on the supply of ventilators we have within the state. The governor touched on the number of state of counties with cases greater than 20. We have 20 counties now that are over 20 cases reported. And as mentioned by the Governor, three of these are over 100 cases. Let me say that the issue of of increased cases is a significant one. As I said before, we think that this is the result of the holiday parties that occurred a week or so ago. We have, we are expecting that coming Halloween, sorry, coming Thanksgiving, that if the recommendations are not adhered to, and again, I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s the same three tenets. That is masking, social distancing, and washing of your hands, this will continue to increase. I am going to come forward today in state that I strongly discourage that persons living in assisted living, living in congregate settings, be taken away from those congregate settings and have Thanksgiving or holidays with their families. Roughly speaking, there is a 30% of three 3% increased chance that you could become infected and become and die. We have seen an increase in the number of deaths since the liberalization of the visitor restrictions in nursing homes. And we’re concerned that this is going to continue. So at this time, I as Secretary of Health, I’m not recommending that this be done for the upcoming holidays. We have some good news though, the FDA will be looking at a vaccine that will be coming forward from Pfizer. They showed a very promising results on initial initial review of their data. Again, this is their data we need to have the FDA and the ACIP review this, but it has an efficacy of 90%. And let me put that in context with our vaccines today for children. It works about as well as those vaccines we use nowadays to prevent whooping cough, diphtheria, and approaches that of measles vaccine. So this is very promising. We hope that that additional data that we reviewed hosts safety and efficacy and hopefully that we’ll have a vaccine available towards the end of this year and coming up next. Lastly, I want to mention that there is now a new monoclonal antibody that can be used for treatment of this disease as an outpatient. It will be shipped to us we are going to be us being the state, we will receive 900 doses of this which will be allocated allocated to a number of institutions throughout the state. This drug can be used in individuals that have mild to moderate disease, do not need hospitalizations, but must have a confirmed covid disease. So I’ll stop here and turn it back over to the Governor. Thank you very much.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  24:01

Secretary Key has an important word for our schools. And then I’ll open up to questions.

Secretary Johnny Key (ADE)  24:10

Thank you, Governor. Today I’ll report on the number of on-site modifications as well as addressing a question that is coming into the department quite commonly over the last week and a half or so. Last week, we saw 21 schools that had to make on site modifications, which not unexpectedly reflects the outbreak or the increase in cases in the community. That’s up from six the week before. So as you can see it’s an a significant increase. Also just with in the first two days of this week, we also have seen 14 modifications just within this week. So our schools are dealing with this. And I would say that they are doing a good job of identifying close contacts, making the decisions that they need to make in order to keep school going. The question that we’ve been getting a lot the last few days, the last probably week to 10 days, is a rumor that the state is going to call off school and require all districts to go to remote learning between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. That is a rumor, is not it is unsubstantiated. And that is not something that we have recommended to the Governor. So I just wanted to make sure that that’s clearly stated today, that we do not have plans to close down public schools for those weeks after Thanksgiving.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  25:37

Thank you, Johnny. And with that, we’ll turn it over to questions.

Andy Davis – ADG  25:44

Enlight of the dramatic increase in cases, what’s the reason for, I mean, for not implementing additional restrictions like we had back in April or May kind of rolling back the reopening?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  26:02

But the reason is that if you’ve got every epidemiologists, you’ve got the medical professionals, if you look at the task force of the White House, you look at the task force that Vice President Biden is setting up, they have the basic fundamental recommendations to control the spread, is to wear a mask. It is to socially distance, and it is to cleanse your hands. Those are the those are the recommendations of the top professionals across the globe in epidemiology and controlling the virus. And so if we do those things, there’s not a need to do more. Whenever you look at our hospitalizations, there’s always a debate you’re going to have as to whether you need to put more restrictions on movement. But we’ve if we do those simple things, you don’t have to put those restrictions in place.

Mills Hayes – KATV  27:05

On October 9th, the Arkansas Department of Health recommended that the state closed down for 28 days, including schools and restaurants. Why did we not take that recommendation?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  27:16

Well, they presented me with options to be considered. And we took a number of the options that was presented to me, we’ve acted on those, one of the options was to close down for 28 days. And I opted not to do that.

Mills Hayes – KATV  27:36

Would there ever be a reason that you ought to do that when the cases where there’ll be a certain threshold of cases that would warrant you to make that decision,

Governor Asa Hutchinson  27:47

I would have to wait and see what the future is like. Obviously, the hospitalizations is a key part of it. But what we’ve learned through the course of this is that early on, there was a lot of pressure to shut down the economy, I resisted that. We didn’t do that. And I don’t believe it is time to go back on that decision making. Whenever you look at whether it’s churches or whether it’s your you’re looking at our restaurants. And I wouldn’t want to put them at full capacity now, but they are doing a an extraordinary job. And we’re working on compliance as well. And the consumers have a choice as to what they do and where they go. I think it would just be wrong to say we’re going to close down this particular business, it puts people out of work, particularly whenever they’re doing everything thing that they can to protect one another. It is really the where the concern comes from is from whether it’s a home gathering a party in the home, it’s a Halloween activity, and you can’t regulate those. So you’d be shutting down businesses that are taking precautions, but you’ve still got the spread through all the other activities of life. Leslie.

Leslie Peacock – Ark Times  29:06

The Bozeman College of Public Health came out today and said with the Arkansas pandemic poll that said acceptance of a vaccine is middling here. He called it tepid. So what do you think it’s important that people get vaccinated and and what can you do to make people do that so that we can lower the amount of COVID in the community?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  29:37

It’s a very good question and the confidence level in a vaccine is critically important to people accepting it. And, you know, people of Arkansas are cautious. And so they want to make sure the FDA is following all of their protocols that the science backs it up and that you they can feel comfortable that it’s a safe vaccine that’s efficacious. And I believe that’s going to happen. And whenever that final decision is made, then you’re going to see the tepid response increase and become a warm response. And as they see neighbors getting the vaccine, there’s going to be more and more wanting the vaccine and getting it. So I, it’s important that we build confidence and not undermine our approval process. And then we need to, we’ll get it out to the medical professionals first in the priority list. And then I have no doubt that it will be well received as that progression happens.

Leslie Peacock – Ark Times  30:43

Marketing, deliver marketing, or increasing marketing…

Governor Asa Hutchinson  30:48

that I would expect that there will be a marketing program whenever that vaccine is available. That is something that I spoke with Secretary Azar about. That marketing will be a need. And that’s something that we’ll have funds available for that. Let’s go remotely. And I think we have a number of callers. So if we could let’s start in Northwest, or the anybody have a question from Northwest?


I do have a question. Yeah, about the vaccine that you mentioned, as far as when it becomes available, how will it be to determine which areas of thestate get the most vaccine? I know, it’s probably too early to tell, but do we know if there will be a cost and or a limited supply?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  31:41

And I’m gonna ask Dr. Romero to comment on that. But it will get to our medical care workers in all the parts of the states that won’t be limited geographically. We will have to make sure that we have the capacity for the right temperature and the storage of those. And that’s something we’ll continue to work on. Dr. Romero.

Dr. Jose Romero  32:08

Thank you, Governor, the Governor is correct in what he said. So there will be a limited supply of vaccine nationally initially. They will roll out more and more of these vaccines as they become available. We will we, Arkansas, will receive an allotment of vaccine based on a formula of our health care providers in the state. We have submitted to Operation Warp Speed a list of hospitals that can handle the vaccine, it has unique storage characteristics because it is frozen. And it will be distributed from those sites, your health department will also have an allotment of this. As we receive more and more vaccines, we will begin to ship these out to other sites. Keep in mind that this is just one of five vaccines that are currently in phase three trials, and that we expect many more vaccines to be coming in the next few months. And each of these vaccines has different storage care characteristics, and therefore maybe easier to distribute throughout the state. And I’ll stop here.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  33:11

Next question, Northwest.


This is Zuzanna with Ozarks at Large on KUAF. Just wondering that document that was brought up a little bit earlier one of the recommendations was to increase the frequency of your briefings. So I’m just wondering if you’re going to do that. Because just as an observation, I guess from just a personal observation, it felt like it was there was a little bit more urgency when you were having briefings more frequently. So I’m just wondering if you’re planning to do that.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  33:45

That’s a possibility. You know, I, whenever we stopped the daily briefing, the interest was waning. There was a weariness that was going with that. And we’ve switched to weekly obviously, there’s a greater urgency now, there’s a greater caseload that’s out there now and so I’ll measure that. So, you know, I don’t think it’s time to go to a daily briefing, but we’ll keep you posted. If we add additional briefings and we’ll try to do it whenever there’s specific news items that need to be covered or particular issue that needs to be covered. Next question.

Emma Claybrook – 40/29  34:27

Emma Claybrook of 40/29 News. I have a question for Dr. Romero about the holidays. Is the Arkansas Department of Health going to give out holiday guidelines for things like mall Santas and holiday worship services and also about other small family gatherings like Thanksgiving dinners and things like that?

Dr. Jose Romero  34:52

So we have issued recommendations for the holiday The governor has approved them they will go on our website shortly. We you hearing the recommendations that I have regarding a family gatherings. Again, they should be small. If they’re at all held, they should be held in an environment that does not allow transmission of the virus within the family. Regarding issues, I think I heard you say mall Santos. Is that is that correct? Yes. Yeah. So I think the situation speaks for itself. I mean, such close contact is probably not indicated is not indicated at this time. And I would discourage against that. So I think we are we are already going forward and warning the public trying to help the public deal with the coming holidays.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  35:41

Let’s go to Central Arkansas has any questions from there?

Andrew DeMillo – AP  35:45

Yeah. This is Andrew with AP. Head two questions for you. One COVID related one, one budget related. Going back to the possibility of further restrictions, Back in September, you had talked about how if there were if they reached a point where there were five successive days of doubt, thousand plus cases, you’d be open to looking at additional steps. We’re obviously at that point now. I guess, what, what would it take? Or what’s kind of the when would you reach a point that your resistance to additional restrictions or additional directives would need would need be you would need to revisit that resistance. When does it hit that point? And my non-COVID question had to do with your budget proposal this morning. One thing you didn’t talk about at the budget hearing was Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court heard arguments today in that case. Do you have a plan B for if the court strikes down ACA all in all, or in part, and do you have any idea of what the impact on the budget would end up being if that happens?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  37:01

Thank you, Andrew. And I really answered much of the first question earlier, explaining what the recommendations are, what our solutions are. You did. But you know, to me, the key is, it always has been our hospitalizations. And that’s what is something that you know, you can’t avoid. If the hospitals are flooded, then you’ve got to say, What more can we do? So that’s something we’ll continue to watch. In terms of, in terms of the Affordable Care Act, there has been discussions on that. I’m engaged in that. If there is a change in the Affordable Care Act based upon a Supreme Court ruling, I have no doubt but that the Supreme Court will give a timeline for Congress to act, because it would take for some significant amount of time to change the systems all across the country. And so there’s time to work with there. And until we know, what happens, there’s really a minimal amount of planning that can go in that what if circumstance, I would expect Congress to act. But if Congress did not act, then we would have to take steps at the state level in accordance with whatever the Supreme Court decision would make. Next question.

Melissa Zygowicz – THV11  38:34

Yes, this is Melissa Zygowicz with THV 11. Every week, we keep on hearing the same message from you. You know, I expect Arkansans to do the right thing, like, as you mentioned, wearing a mask and social distancing. But looking at the numbers, it’s clear a lot of people may not be doing the right thing. Do you really believe people are listening to this message and that this current strategy, or putting out more marketing at this point is really going to save lives?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  39:03

The answer is yes. But you talk about me repeating the same message. What is Dr. Fauci say what’s the message he’s had for for eight months? What’s the message that the Coronavirus task forces had? What’s the message that whichever side of the aisle? It doesn’t take, well, every epidemiologist says the same thing as to what we need to do. Now you’re speaking of compliance. Theoretically, we could go out and arrest people. We’re not going to do that in Arkansas. We give a warning but we are stressing compliance. And we’re taking a number of steps to enhance that I’ve talked about before, the marketing campaign is important. And so we’re taking those steps, but ultimately, it’s individuals doing the right thing. I can’t make people do the right thing. You know, we could, you know, give them a warning or a ticket in a store. But, you know, if they go home and they don’t protect themselves there, you got the same issue. And so we’re asking Arkansans to do the right thing, just as everyone at the national level is asking for the same response. And hopefully we’ll have a clear voice and a good response. Next question.

Neal Gladner  40:24

Good afternoon. It’s Neal Gladner in the Hot Springs. I went back and look, the last time you Health Department provided guidance on houses of worship was in the summer. And I looked at those guidelines and then looking at the slide you put up to date. Really, that’s not a change, I presumed that was to serve more as a reminder than anything else?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  40:43

And the change is the requirement to wear a mask during the service, even when singing. And so that is a modification of the guideline that was presented. Anything

Mike McNeil –  41:01


Governor Asa Hutchinson  41:02


Mike McNeil –  41:03

Governor Mike McNeil at Magnolia As you know, the high school football playoff start this week, as an example, Pea Ridge from Benton County, which has a high case count, it’s going to travel to Magnolia where we’re also seeing a surge in cases. The AAA cancel the state basketball championship in March, when there were a handful of infections and four counties. How does proceeding with football playoffs this week make any sense?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  41:32

Because that was then when we knew very little. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. There was an enormous amount of fear and uncertainty. The science had not been developed and we’re eight months further along than that, so the circumstances are entirely different. I would, I think the players, coaches have done by and large a good job during the course of the game. The challenge is the after the game celebrations. And I hope I asked the coaches to just be mindful that it’s just as important to protect the players and each other during that time, as it is on the sideline.

Samantha Boyd – KNWA  42:17

Governor, this is Samantha Boyd with KNWA and Fox 24. I have a question regarding the Benton County Jail. We’ve heard from several concerned family members of those in the jail who say there is no cleaning done inside the jails. The detainees who are COVID-19 positive are quarantined together with up to 45 people in a single pod. They’re not receiving the medicine, they say, and in some are saying or not even given their test results. Is there anything you’re doing to address these issues, as cases in the jail continue to rise?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  42:46

I spoke to the sheriff of Benton County today. And he indicated to me that the that the inmates are segregated or separated in terms of those that have tested positive, he indicated that the vast majority are asymptomatic. And I did not ask in terms of their care and their treatment. But obviously, they should be handled in a way that, in fact, he did mention that they have a medical care provider that does provide care, and if anybody had symptoms that would justify more care than that should be referred to them. I expect that we’ll have more information on that in the coming days. And if they need additional assistance from the Department of Health beyond testing, then we will certainly look at providing that. But that’s the information I have now I know that they have worked very, very hard to deal with that issue there in the county. And hopefully that will not spread any further.

Josh White – KAIT  44:00

Hi, Governor, this is Josh White with KAIT. I wanted to go back to the October 9th memo that KATV brought up. You said that the options for consideration and that you took some of them, looking them over and reading them one by one minus social distancing. wear a mask and practice good hygiene. You haven’t done any of the actual recommendations. So why is that?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  44:28

Well, if I remember right, there was increased public messaging, which we have done, we’ve increased the marketing campaign. We been, another option was increasing our enforcement our compliance efforts. We’ve done that. And so you’re totally wrong on that point that a number of the recommendations have been accepted and implemented.

Josh White – KAIT  44:50

To follow up on that you’ve not reduced the size of gatherings of indoor. you’ve allowed you’ve not done any kind of curfew, no 28 day pause, no social gatherings of greater than 48 people. You’ve not asked schools to resume to work remotely. You’d not close restaurants or bars or other venues.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  45:10

Yes, Josh, and I’ve, I’ve explained my thinking on that previously and answer to a number of questions. Thank you. Are they any, yes, Leslie?

Leslie Peacock – Ark Times  45:23

Have you heard from or do you plan to work with President-elect Biden’s vaccine task force? COVID Task Force, excuse me his COVID task force?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  45:36

I have not heard from them. And, you know, I think he’s doing the right thing in in trying to prepare for the eventuality if he wins the election and the all the results come in for the different states. He’s got to be prepared for that eventuality. I haven’t heard from him. He would certainly be easy to work with. I worked with him when he was the United States Senate. I was head of the DEA, I worked with him when I was in Congress. So it’s a good relationship there. And he would be would certainly be easy from my standpoint to work on behalf of Arkansas and the American people. If that eventuality happens, yes.

Mills Hayes – KATV  46:23

We’re getting reports from health care workers that they’re seeing some COVID patients coming in from other parts of the country. Do we know if this is true? And is this providing a strain on our health care workers here?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  46:38

Dr. Romero, do you have anything on that? The I mean, first of all, I mean, I know in Fort Smith, they routinely have people from Oklahoma that are that’s their hospital in their vicinity. Northwest Arkansas is going to have people in southern Missouri. And you know, so you’re going to have in Jonesboro some of the same. So you’re going to have that just in the normal course of coverage. But I think if the case is that they’re being over flooded, of COVID in another state, and they’re sending them down here. I’m not aware of that note any information on it. All right. Thank you all for today’s attention again. Thank you.

Josh White – KAIT  47:19

I’m sorry. Again, this is Josh with KAIT. Representative Dan Sullivan, is continuing to push that COVID numbers are fake, that hospitals are labeling COVID deaths for federal money. There’s a big push to pass the freedom resolution that allows local governments to make decision and offset yours as you’re trying to get your message out. And that message continues to beat down up here. What is your message to representative Sullivan and his supporters?

Governor Asa Hutchinson  47:53

Well, Josh, how did that resolution work out in the Craighead County quorum court, if I heard correctly, it was not even seconded and failed, and did not have any support. So I hope that’s the response from other counties that recognize the importance of what we’re doing and that they need to take ownership in their community. And I think that’s what’s happening. Thank you.