Tuesday morning on the COVID-19 daily update on the Arkansas Department of Health website, positive cases rose to 202 and by Tuesday afternoon the number was 218

Monday 174 positive cases were reported in Arkansas. Tuesday morning on the COVID-19 daily update on the Arkansas Department of Health website, positive cases rose to 202 and by Tuesday afternoon the number was 218 with over 1,000 tests administered in the state so far.

“Sadly we have our first death from COVID-19 and since that came about earlier today we’ve had another death,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson during his Tuesday afternoon COVID-19 update press conference. “Now we have two deaths from COVID-19.”

Hutchinson says in talking with his public health teams, they have said what we are seeing is the calm before the storm.

“I know that many people don’t see this as the calm but I think the way it is phrased makes us understand we’re still on the lower end of the slope as it goes up,” said Hutchinson. “This needs to be understood by everyone in Arkansas that we are still on the front end of this COVID-19 emergency that we have in the state of Arkansas.”

According to Dr. Nate Smith with the Arkansas Department of Health, both deaths were in central Arkansas. One patient was in their 50s and the other was older than 80-years-old. Both were not nursing home residents.

At least 10 people have recovered from the virus. Out of the 218 cases, 11 are children, 73 are adults ages 65 and up and 134 are between the ages of 19 and 64. Fourteen of the 218 cases are hospitalized and six are on ventilators. Thirty-eight of those cases are from the three affected nursing homes. Testing has not been completed at all of the nursing homes according to Smith.

“With COVID-19 being reported from many parts of our state, we need to consider that any public space is potentially a place where people could become infected and we have to practice social distancing and be careful not to make unnecessary trips out of our homes into crowded places,” said Smith.

Jennifer Dillaha, the ADH Medical Director for Immunizations and Outbreak Response, encouraged the public to take social distancing very seriously, particularly the young adults during Tuesday’s press conference.

“It is hard for many young people to stay away from their friends because our friends are very important to us but if they are truly important, it’s going to be important for us to use social distancing to protect ourselves as well as our friends and our families,” said Dilaha.

Dilaha continues by saying to take good care of ourselves through social distancing, maintain a distance with the people, avoiding public places where interacting with a number of people as well as avoid unnecessary trips.

“If we are taking good care of ourselves then in turn we will be helping to take care of our families by not bringing perhaps this virus to our families or sharing it with the people that we interact with, our friends and those we love,” said Dilaha. “There are other people that are taking this seriously and this can be a hardship.”

During Monday’s press conference a directive was announced closing beauty shops, barbershops, nail shops, massage therapy clinics, and tattoo parlors. That directive took effect on Tuesday.

“We are still on the lower end of this upswing and I think we are going to see more cases. We’re going to see more disruptions in the near future and I’d like to hope we are going to keep our economy moving even with this challenge,” said Hutchinson. “I know it hurt small businesses particularly. Some of our entrepreneurs in the state that own restaurants, barbershops, and beauty salons, my heart aches for them.”

Hutchinson predicts that these guidelines will remain for some time.

“Different parts of the country are in different phases of this epidemic,” said Smith. “We were one of the last states to have cases and being a more rural state, as to some of the more urbanize areas of our country, we can expect probably to have more of a slow ramp up and slow decline.

According to Smith the slow ramp and decline will be good for Arkansas because the peak number of people who will need hospitals and ventilators will be lower.

“When will we be able to return to normal commercial activity in our state may be later than other parts of the country,” said Smith. “It seems like for us, because we really just had our first case a couple of weeks ago, that it will probably be a little longer before we are back to normal.”