Arkansas COVID-19 Cases Rise; $3M Added to Business Loan Fund

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Arkansas health officials said Friday that the number of COVID-19 cases in the state had risen to 96, and that three nursing homes have reported cases.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state would use $30 million to help health care officials purchase personal protective equipment for hospitals, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge put $3 million in lawsuit settlement proceeds toward the state’s bridge loan program to help small businesses.

Hutchinson also said a special emergency loan program offered under the U.S. Small Business Administration had been approved for Arkansas, one that could offer businesses loans up to $2 million.

Businesses seeking to apply for a bridge loan can get information at www.arkansasedc.com/covid19. They can also call the Commerce Department at (501) 682-1121. Information about the loan program is also available at local chambers of commerce.

Information about the SBA program is available at sba.gov/coronavirus and by calling Arkansas’ local SBA office at (501) 324-7279.

Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key said Arkansas would apply for a federal waiver to cancel this year’s ACT Aspire testing in Arkansas. He also announced that the department would work with Arkansas PBS to create special educational programming for K-8 students, which will air beginning after spring break, to add to students’ education.

Hutchinson, who yesterday announced restrictions on restaurants and bars, said he’d since received calls asking whether he’d place more limits on business. He said it is not his intent to further restrict or close business and industrial activities in Arkansas.

The new cases include nine residents and four staff members at the Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. The Health Department said there were also cases at nursing homes in Centerton and Pine Bluff.

The state last week prohibited visitors at nursing homes and required anyone entering the facilities to be screened.

You can watch video of the news conference:

Video:

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)