In a press conference held Monday afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced there have been four new presumed positive cases in Arkansas, with the total now standing at 22 after the weekend.

UPDATE MONDAY -- In a press conference held Monday afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced there have been four new presumed positive cases in Arkansas, with the total now standing at 22 after the weekend.  Previously, 16 cases were announced Sunday.

*****

UPDATE SATURDAY -- In a press conference held Saturday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced there have been 3 new presumed positive cases in Arkansas totaling 12. All 3 new cases are in connection to the first presumed positive case in Pine Bluff.

*****

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced three new presumptive positive test results of COVID-19 in central Arkansas, Friday afternoon. Two were a couple known to have been traveling. The third is from a person who did not travel and acquired coronavirus here.

“The case that is of most concern is the one where we don’t have a linkage to an out-of-state exposure, or to a known case and that suggests the likely hood of transmission within the Little Rock Community,” said Dr. Nate Smith, Director and State Health Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health.

There are now nine presumptive positive cases in the state.

Hutchinson also declared a public-health emergency in Arkansas that would be amended to enhance the ability to carry out Tele-Health in Arkansas, which means that Arkansas physicians can talk to their patients and establish a patient consultation on the telephone during this emergency time.

“Obviously when they are calling their phone, their physician or doctor and say I’ve got symptoms. What do I do? We want the doctor to feel comfortable in giving counsel, advice and establishing that patient relationship,” said Hutchinson. “It’s also important in the mental health area.”

Hutchinson states the amendment will allow mental health professionals the ability in this urgent time to communicate by telephone to carry out their responsibilities in their profession.

The state will soon be receiving $6.2 million in emergency funding for virus response recently approved by Congress.

Governor Hutchinson advised gatherings larger than 200 people in the counties affected by the cases, where schools have also been closed to cancel: Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Grant counties.

For counties who aren’t affected, using good judgement and practicing social distancing is recommended.

Dr. Nate suggests avoiding unnecessary gatherings, especially for those who are older and have underlying medical conditions. “Try to avoid contact with sick individuals but also with larger gatherings,” said Dr. Nate. “We don’t have evidence of community transmissions outside of this area and other parts of the state but we are continuing to monitor the situation very carefully.”

As for churches Hutchinson says you are going to see some churches cancel services because they have large crowds. “They don’t want to take risks, might have an elderly congregation, but you’re going to have other churches that are going to be creative,” said Hutchinson. “They are going to practice social distancing.”

Pastor Brandon M. Dyer of Lampkin Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff announced that he will be taking the necessary precautions due to the coronavirus. Midweek worship services and choir rehearsals are canceled but Sunday’s 11 a.m. service will continue. “We will refrain from our usual fellowship period and corporate prayer at the altar,” he said.

Kazmira Davis, the wife of Pastor Omar Davis of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Sherrill says they will proceed with their regularly scheduled Sunday school and morning worship but refrain from hugging and touching one another.

The Arkansas Activities Association announced that they would be suspending all spring sports activities beginning Sunday through Monday, March 30, because of coronavirus.

The remainder of the AAA Basketball Finals are postponed until further notice. This decision is effective following the conclusion of the 2A championships on March 12th. No games will be played on March 13th or 14th.

“After speaking with the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Education, and the Governor’s office, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the rest of the Basketball Finals,” said Lance Taylor, Executive Director of the AAA. “Our number one priority will always be the safety of our student athletes, coaches, officials, and fans.”