Pine Bluff city leaders and officials gathered Tuesday morning to provide the community with updates and the city of Pine Bluff's ongoing efforts against COVID-19.

Pine Bluff city leaders and officials gathered Tuesday morning to provide the community with updates and the city of Pine Bluff’s ongoing efforts against COVID-19.

Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson, Pine Bluff Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant, Pine Bluff Fire Chief Shauwn Howell and Jefferson Regional Medical Center CEO Brian Thomas collectively distributed vital information during the press conference held at the Pine Bluff Convention center at 11:00 a.m.

The conference was held prior to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s state press conference, where he announced Tuesday afternoon that the state’s COVID-19 cases had increased to 523 with one additional death.

New cases were detected in Columbia, Newton and Perry counties.

In Pine Bluff, Washington’s transparency gave an insight to what the leaders on the front line of the COVID-19 fight are faced with and how they are handling it.

“It is out of abundance of cautious that we are having this press conference this morning,” said Washington “The purpose is to provide some local updates on this epidemic that we are facing in this community.”

Robinson announced that Jefferson County has 33 confirmed COVID cases.

“We are working with so many organizations, our health department, Office of Emergency Management, and our local first responders,” said Robinson.

Washington thanked the healthcare workers nationwide for their services as she introduced the CEO of JRMC. Washington described Thomas as the leader of the frontline.

Reiterating the 33 confirmed COVID-19 cases, Thomas gave the perspective from the hospital saying the hospital had tested 43 patients to date, some who resided in other counties.

“We’ve tested 129 negative tests so far,” said Thomas.

Thomas, who says he is very confident in his team and staff, adds JRMC has a number of patients in the hospital but the number is something his staff can handle.

He also said with over 1,800 employees, a number of his employees and team members have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We got a number of employees and team members that actually contracted the coronavirus by their early services of the patient in the earlier part of this epidemic,” said Thomas.

From Little Rock, it was announced that the state's death total is now at eight with the latest patient passing away at White River Medical Center. The patient was over 65-years-old according to Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith.

Smith confirmed in the 523 cases in Arkansas, 79 were healthcare workers, 44 have diabetes, 29 have heart disease, 23 have lung disease, 12 have chronic kidney disease and 16 have immuno-compromising conditions.

Seventeen are children (ages 18 and under), 158 seniors (ages 65+), 348 adults (ages 18-64) , 64 are hospitalized and 23 on ventilators.

At JRMC, Thomas says the hospital has an adequate supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and are being selective with patients that they swab for COVID-19.

“Our staff has done a great job getting the equipment needed,” said Thomas. “We want to be good stewards with the products that we have so far but we are keeping pace with the people that need to be tested.

Howell said for the protection of the firefighters and the community, his staff would have additional PPE on them when responding to a call.

“We don’t want to possibly spread anything to an individual or spread anything to our firefighters,” said Howell. “So just be aware we may be wearing additional PPE. You may see us in masks, gowns, firefighting equipment but that’s all in safety.”

Sergeant announced the city curfew, which was approved by the Pine Bluff City Council the day before.

A night time curfew, between the hours of 9:00 p.m. through 5:00 a.m. would be enforced as well as a daytime curfew between the hours of 7:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. for persons 17 years old or younger, unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or legal custodian.

Sergeant also stated that parks would be closed due to the risk of COVID-19 spread.

During Hutchinson’s press conference he stated travelers were crowding the state and national parks which he is considering closing.

A curfew violation number was provided to report any persons who fail to abide by the law in Pine Bluff. Violators can be reported to (870) 541-5300.

A Jefferson County Resource Center Hotline has been establish for those who may have symptoms By calling (870) 541-4911 you will be screened over the phone. Washington encourages the public to call that number first and to not go to the hospital.

According to Washington, call before noon for a same day appointment. After the noon hour appointments will be scheduled for the following day.

Washington encourages city residents to stay home during this time to decrease the spread of COVID- 19.

Hutchinson urges people to continue social-distancing while the projected numbers of COVID-19 trend lower than what was previously expected.