Gov. Hutchinson orders closing of state school campuses Tuesday through the spring break in response to COVID-19

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, provided an update on the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response Sunday afternoon. The governor said four additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in Arkansas to 16.

The governor also put into place an optional school campus closing for Monday, March 16, followed by mandatory closing of campuses beginning Tuesday through the end of the week. Spring break follows the week of March 23-27.

Hutchinson stated he expects school schedules to resume as normal beginning March 30, but advised the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control may change during the interim period. Schools will be allowed to use AMI (alternate methods of instruction) during the campus closures. School buildings will be cleaned and disinfected during the time students are away from campus.

Dr. Smith stated at the news conference that two of the new cases are people who acquired coronavirus while out of state. Those individuals are from Garland County and self-isolated once positive test results were confirmed. He also stated over 100 negative tests have been conducted so far. The negative tests were conducted on individuals viewed as highly vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor of UAMS, says people who believe they have symptoms of COVID-19 should not go to a hospital emergency room or crowded doctor’s office. Instead, he is encouraging the use of an online portal from UAMS which provides a free face-to-face consultation with Healthcare professionals to address such concerns. (Click here for access to the UAMS portal.)

Also speaking at the press conference, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge reminded retailers and wholesalers that Arkansas’s price gouging laws are now in effect for at least the next 30 days. Under the law, consumer goods which may be in short supply (cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, water, medical supplies, etc.) may not have their price increased more than 10 percent above “pre-crisis” level. The AG stated both “brick-and-mortar” and online sellers will be held accountable for any price gouging. Consumers who feel they may have been a victim of price gouging are encouraged to visit the Attorney General’s website at arkansasag.gov.

Hutchinson also urged against “panic buying,” noting it’s always good to keep at least a month’s worth of basic needs, but that the supply chain is working fine. “The supply chain continues to work in America,” he said. “We need to be calm about that.”

Department of Health officials also remind the public to continue to take precautions much like they would in attempting to prevent the spread of other infectious diseases. Avoid touching your face, don’t shake hands with people, and wash your hands thoroughly several times each day.

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