Arkansas Reports Record Cases, Hospitalizations; Governor Names Task Force

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Friday reported another record spike in coronavirus cases and a new high for hospitalizations as Gov. Asa Hutchinson formed a panel to address the virus’s surge in the state.

Hutchinson said the state’s cases grew by 2,312, surpassing a record one-day spike it two days earlier. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations grew by 21 to 826, surpassing a high it reached on Tuesday.

Hutchinson said the COVID-19 Winter Task Force will look at ways to better coordinate the COVID-19 caseload statewide and ways the state can assist hospitals in increasing their staff resources to manage the surge. The panel, primarily comprised of hospital leaders from around the state, will be chaired by the governor and will begin meeting Monday, he said.

The panel will also look at ways to increase compliance with the state’s mask mandate and other steps the state can take, though the Republican governor again expressed resistance to further restrictions on businesses.

“We don’t want to shut down and I don’t expect that to be the result of this task force,” Hutchinson said. “But I do want to give them the latitude to give me options and discuss anything they think needs to be done.”

Members

Hutchinson chair the task force, and Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe will be vice chair. The other members are: 

  • Larry Shackelford, President and CEO of Washington Regional Medical Center;
  • Chris Barber, President and CEO of St. Bernard’s Healthcare;
  • Scott Street, CEO of Medical Center of South Arkansas;
  • Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences;
  • Rachel Bunch, Executive Director of Arkansas Health Care Association; 
  • Bo Ryall, President and CEO of Arkansas Hospital Association;
  • Troy Wells, President and CEO of Baptist Health;
  • Ryan Gehrig, President of Mercy Hospital, Fort Smith;
  • Major General Kendall Penn, Adjutant General, Arkansas National Guard;
  • A.J. Gary, Director of Arkansas Department of Emergency Management;
  • Dr. José Romero, Secretary of Arkansas Department of Health;
  • Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, Arkansas Department of Health;
  • Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Arkansas Department of Health;
  • Dr. Naveen Patil, Arkansas Department of Health;
  • Dr. Keyur Vyas, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences;
  • Phillip Gilmore, CEO of Ashley County Medical Center;
  • Dr. Steven Collier, CEO of ARcare; and
  • Ron Peterson, President and CEO of Baxter County Regional Medical Center

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