At today’s briefing from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, officials noted the cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state as of 1:30 p.m. today stands at 118. Counties with the most cases include Pulaski with 28 cases; Cleburne with 22; Jefferson with 19; and Garland County at six cases.
Regarding the number of cases in Independence County, Judge Robert Griffin released the following statement to White River Now this afternoon:
“Rumors of a third case are unsubstantiated. As of this time, the ADH County Nurse, Director of Emergency Management nor myself have been notified of a third identified case. It is likely that our numbers will rise but that is a normal occurrence in this type of situation.
Our partners are ready to respond as needs arise. Keep a socially responsible distance from others regarding spreading this virus, frequently wash your hands 20 seconds or longer, stay home if you feel sick or run a fever, and don’t panic at each sniffle.
I know of several people with a mild symptom, and none have had the disease. We are fortunate to live in a rural area that will help slow the spread of this virus and I am proud of how well the people are adapting to the needs. Please check on older neighbors, and let’s support each other daily.”
Also at today’s briefing, Hutchinson noted that according to estimates, the peak spread of the virus in the state should be in six to eight weeks. If those estimates hold, officials say 1,000 patients would be hospitalized, putting strain on the hospitals and the economy, as well as endangering lives.
However, Hutchinson says if residents strictly adhere to the standard precautions — hand-washing, social distancing, sanitizing, unnecessary traveling, and avoidance of groups — and is successful at these practices, Arkansas will likely not have to go to measures such as implementing a “shelter in place” order.
At yesterday’s briefing, Walmart was complimented for the $550 million bonus it split among its hourly employees at Walmart stores, Sam’s clubs, Walmart offices, and within its supply chain.
Broadband service to rural areas of the state was also included in yesterday‘s message from the governor. Arkansas is just now starting to bring internet service into rural areas. The current guideline is “broadband for a community of 500 or more.“
However, the state has a large number of communities below that magic 500 population number.
We asked state Sen. James Sturch about providing internet service to rural area students. He told White River Now on Friday that before the state came to the point with the school closures, the legislature had been working to get the governor on the same page with the deregulation of utility contracts and providing $25 million in grants for establishing rural access.
Sturch said many rural areas smaller than the 500 population number served by the state need a solid plan moving forward where they can also be given equal consideration and service, regardless of their size.
The Arkansas Rural Connect program allows cities and counties in underserved areas to partner with internet service providers to apply for state funds to construct new broadband infrastructure. Act 198 of 2019 enabled the program by removing a prohibition on local government providing broadband services and infrastructure.
Sturch said broadband deserts have formed in the state because companies are reluctant to invest in existing broadband lines to far-flung areas with low populations. The senator says it’s difficult to turn a profit without a substantial customer base. He also added all of this will take time, but it’s in the process.
In the meantime, several community colleges in the state have expanded their access to parking lots in the area of service to serve as hotspots. UACCB, Ozarka, and Black River are all included.
UACCB Chancellor Deborah Frazier said the cooperation and partnerships with the schools in north-central Arkansas are really what made providing broadband service to some rural areas possible.
It’s for the students, Frazier told White River Now, and “…what’s more important than that?”
The new White River Now mobile app has started featuring regular COVID-19 updates and podcasts. In addition to the updates featured on the White River Now family of radio stations, the COVID-19 podcast section also features two new interviews with Sen. James Sturch and state Rep. Stu Smith. Download the free White River Now app today from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, and keep up-to-date on all local and state coronavirus information and to listen to the streams of White River Now radio stations.
We also carry live feeds of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s COVID-19’s briefings on-air, online, and through the White River Now app on Arkansas 103.3 KWOZ and on White River Now’s Facebook page.
Get up-to-date local and regional news along with the latest sports and weather every weekday morning by listening to Gary B. on Ozark Newsline, broadcast from the First Community Bank Newsroom on Arkansas 103.3 KWOZ. White River Now updates are also aired weekday mornings on 93 KZLE, Outlaw 106.5, and 99.5 Hits Now. Have a news tip or event to promote? Email White River Now at email@example.com. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Add don’t forget to download the White River Now mobile app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.