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Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that based on current predictive models and experts, Arkansas could see COVID-19 cases increase to 2,000 by the first week of April and to 3,500 within two weeks.
“My goal is to beat those numbers,” he said during his daily coronavirus update news conference. “We also have to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”
The governor said he had authorized 10 additional National Guard personnel to assist the state Department of Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in expanding the capacity of hospital beds in Arkansas to prepare for more COVID-19 cases.
The state has also ordered 500 ventilators, which represents a “massive expansion of our current capacity,” said the governor. Hutchinson warned that the U.S. Department of Defense could claim those ventilators or they could go to a higher-priority state.
As of Friday afternoon, the Arkansas had 381 cases of the virus, and 48 people were hospitalized for it. There were 17 people on ventilators, and 19 people have recovered.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also spoke at Friday’s daily coronavirus news conference.
She said her office committed $3 million from the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund last week to go toward the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Quick Action Loan Program for small businesses. In addition, $1 million from the same fund would go to UAMS and hospitals for personal protective equipment. Hutchinson announced on Sunday that the state would put $30 million toward obtaining personal protective equipment. The $1 million is part of that $30 million.
Rutledge also said her office had received 500 price-gouging complaints in the past few weeks and was conducting 25 open investigations. Those include $1 masks being sold for $20 to hospitals and small convenience stores increasing the cost of toilet paper and hand sanitizers, she said.
Rutledge’s office has been working with online retailers as well, to contact third-party vendors engaged in price gouging and inform them they are breaking the law.
The attorney general said price gouging carries up to $10,000 per violation and/or a criminal conviction.