COVID-19 update: Some elective procedures to start back next week; decisions soon on restaurants, gyms, salons

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At Wednesday’s statewide COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined the possible gradual lifting of certain restrictions that have been implemented during the crisis. With the scheduled target date of May 4 approaching, Hutchinson outlined when decisions concerning the possible reopening of restaurants, gyms, barbershops, beauty salons, and other businesses are scheduled to be made. (See chart below.)

Future Decision Points Leading to May 4

Hutchinson emphasized the decisions could go either way and will be decided with the coordination of the state health department and the governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force based on where Arkansas is in the fight against COVID-19 at the time.

One decision that has been made in terms of the lifting of one particular restriction: elective procedures. Hutchinson said he’s issued a directive that such procedures can begin again on Monday, April 27.

Dr. Nate Smith (pictured at podium) with the Arkansas Department of Health said the state will utilize an incremental approach in bringing back elective procedures. For example, initial procedures will be limited to those that do not require a hospital stay. Patients having procedures must not have symptoms of COVID-19; must not have had contact with anyone who has tested positive; and must be tested for coronavirus 48 hours before the procedure. Smith said officials will encourage hospitals and clinics to schedule and perform elective procedures in a smaller volume and build from there.

Again, officials stressed that if certain restrictions are lifted or eased by the May 4 target date, residents are still to continue sticking to the recommended health guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks when such distancing is not possible.

Stats released from the Wednesday briefing include:

  • There are 2,276 positive cases — a jump of 49 new cases since Tuesday. Thirteen of the new cases are from the Cummins State Prison Barracks. The increase is small compared to Tuesday’s additional number of 304. However, officials say the Cummins number could rise due to testing being performed at additional barracks. There are currently almost 700 positive cases at Cummins.
  • Ninety-seven patients are hospitalized. The number of those on a ventilator has decreased four since Tuesday. The total is now 23.
  • The statewide death total actually decreased by one. A recent victim was a Missouri resident who passed at an Arkansas facility. The revised death total is now 42.
  • There have been 863 recoveries. That’s an additional 64 recoveries since Tuesday.
  • Two hundred and sixty-two healthcare workers have tested positive while 148 have recovered.
  • And, officials note there are 35 new cases at nursing home facilities across the state, bringing the total number of such patients to 170.

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