UPDATED TODAY: A Pine Bluff nursing home had one resident test positive for COVID-19 according to a press release by the Arkansas Department of Health that was released on Friday. The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff was one of the three nursing homes with a positive case.

A Pine Bluff nursing home had one resident test positive for COVID-19 according to a press release by the Arkansas Department of Health that was released on Friday. The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff was one of the three nursing homes with a positive case.

The other nursing homes were Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock.

According to Dr. Nate Smith in a press conference Friday afternoon, who is the Director and State Health Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, the virus was contracted by the patient’s exposure to the physician who became infected by the original Pine Bluff patient.

During Saturday afternoon’s press conference, the number of confirmed positive cases in Arkansas jumped from 96 to 118 in one day. According to Smith, the 22 new cases announced during Saturday’s press conference were from two of the three nursing homes.

“We have a lot more that we will be testing today so we’ll probably have a clearer picture of what’s going on in each of those three facilities by tomorrow or Monday,” said Smith.

Healthcare workers and residents who have tested positive have been segregated from those who have tested negative or who have not yet been tested.

Effective immediately, the Arkansas Department of Health has directed all long-term care facilities to prohibit all visitation for 30 days unless medically necessary or by law enforcement or other emergency personnel, a representative from the Arkansas Department of Health, a representative from the Arkansas Department of Human Services Office of Long-term Care, or a representative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

All visitation that is allowed by this directive is subject to the screening requirements unless otherwise provided in a separate directive from the Arkansas Department of Health. Medically necessary visits include visitation related to medical treatment and visitation appropriate for a resident’s end of life care.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was greatly concerned about the long-term care facilities, said at the press conference, the number of positive tests for the novel coronavirus had increased to 96 in the state as of Friday.

More than 150 people are under investigation because they were showing symptoms and had traveled to an infected area and 501 are being monitored.

Among the cases, nine are children, 32 are 65 and older and 72 cases are ages 19-64. Thirteen of the 118 cases are hospitalized, seven required ICU and four were on ventilators.

Thirteen cases, including patients and staff, have tested positive at Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. ADH is currently screening all other staff and residents for COVID-19.

“Appropriate healthcare actions are being taken but it simply shows that we have to stay on top of this,” said Hutchinson. “We have to take seriously the admonition that we all have a responsibility to yourself and to our neighbor to take proper health care precautions, social distancing, make sure we are not a carrier of this and we're going to impact somebody else’s life.”

Hutchinson forecasted in six to eight weeks, Arkansas would reach its peak with 1,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“We are doing all that we can as a state to flatten the peak to make sure that we don’t get any worse than the projections,” said Hutchinson. “We need your help to engage in these common sense protective measures for your own benefit and to the benefit of those who depend on you and the elderly.”

Hutchinson expects Arkansas to follow the guidelines set by the CDC and the ADH. In summary by social distancing, good hand hygiene, screening and avoiding unnecessary traveling, that will help limit the exposure.

According to Hutchinson, social groups should not be larger than 10.

“If we are successful in this effort as a public, as Arkansans then we don’t have to do what other states have done which is shelter-in-place, cease more business activity, lose more jobs and as you see they have gone to more extreme measures,” said Hutchinson. “These are all hardships in which we are living under but we do it for our neighbor, we do it for the elderly, we do it for our state and nation.”

Hutchinson predicts if Arkansas is successful in keeping the peak at the lower level so state can get back to normal.

“Over the next six to eight weeks we produce, we work, we adjust and we support each other. That is important that we all do our part,” said Hutchinson. “We do our social distancing, we do our screening, we take these protective measures in place and we produce because we have to produce in our country in we are going to keep meeting the needs of our society.”