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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during a news conference on Monday. At left is Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Gregory Bledsoe and at right is Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith.

The state Department of Health on Monday ordered the closure of all beauty parlors, barbershops, nail salons, massage therapy studios and tattoo parlors, starting at noon Wednesday, as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus topped 200.

From Sunday afternoon to Monday evening, the number of identified coronavirus cases reported by the Health Department rose by 36, to 201.

That was double the state's total from just three days earlier.

The newly identified cases included the first ones ever reported in Crawford, Cross, Lawrence, Stone and White counties, marking the virus' spread to at least 35 of the state's 75 counties.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

In Cleburne County, a deacon at the First Assembly of God Church in Greers Ferry said 34 people who were at a recent children's event at the church have tested positive, and more were awaiting test results.

A student at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville who lives off campus, two employees at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and a student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff are also among those who have tested positive, officials at the schools said Monday.

In Pulaski County, which has the largest number of people who have tested positive, the number of reported cases rose by 10, to 62.

The number rose by three in Cleburne County, to 28, by one in Jefferson County, to 21, and by three in Faulkner County, to 10.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOejFIevTL8]

Clark County's number rose by at least three, to seven. A day earlier, it had been listed as having one to four cases. No new cases were reported in Garland County, where nine people have tested positive. All other counties in the state with cases were listed as having fewer than five.

The state also reported that six people who tested positive for the coronavirus are now considered to have recovered from their illness, meaning that at least a week has passed since they became sick and that they haven't had symptoms for at least three days.

DEPARTMENT DIRECTIVE

The Health Department's order affecting hair salons, tattoo parlors and other businesses was the latest in a series of measures by the state to limit the virus's spread.

Gallery: Arkansas Corona Virus Press Conference

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/324governor/]

All public schools in the state have been closed since early last week, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday ordered the closure of all bars and restaurant dining rooms in the state.

Health Secretary Nate Smith said the businesses affected by the latest directive will still be able to sell cosmetics and other products but won't be able to provide services until further notice.

"The idea is that we don't want people coming in contact with each other and then potentiating the spread of covid-19," Smith said. "Anything that can be done without that kind of contact, that should be just fine."

The virus, which emerged late last year in Wuhan, China, spreads through respiratory droplets emitted when people sneeze or cough. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Those symptoms have been mild for most people but severe or even deadly for some. The elderly and people with chronic health conditions are considered most at risk.

Arkansas' covid-19 cases by county



legend 0 25 50 75 100 Number of confirmed cases

Source: Arkansas Department of Health

[Interactive Arkansas map not showing up above? Click here to see it: arkansasonline.com/arvirus]

NURSING HOME CASES

The Health Department has focused much of its recent testing on three nursing homes where residents have tested positive.

Those are Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation in Little Rock, where infections have been confirmed in at least 35 residents and six staff members; The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff, where at least two residents have tested positive; and Apple Creek Health and Rehab in Centerton, where at least one resident has a confirmed covid-19 diagnosis.

"The good news is that we've really only gotten one additional positive case from the residents and staff that we've tested," Smith said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

He didn't specify the home associated with the newly identified infection or whether it was a resident or staff member.

"We're very, very encouraged by the large number of negative results that we've received so far," he said.

At the time that Smith spoke Monday afternoon, the state had reported finding just nine additional cases, including the one linked to a nursing home, since the previous afternoon.

He said those new cases included one person age 65 or older, bringing the total number of senior citizens in the state who had tested positive to 63.

Known infections among people age 19-64 had risen to 101, while those of children or teenagers up to age 18 who have tested positive remained the same at 10.

Sixty percent of the people with confirmed diagnoses have been women, 70% have been white, 20% have been black and 10% were another race, he said.

He said 22 people who tested positive have been hospitalized, including 14 who were in intensive care at some point and nine who remained in a hospital on Monday.

Later Monday, the state reported finding 27 additional cases but did not immediately release demographic information on them or other details.

SUPPLIES LOW

Arkansas Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe, an emergency room physician, said he's been "inundated with calls from providers saying they are critically low" on personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators and surgical masks.

Hutchinson said the state, which has allocated $30 million to make bulk purchases of the supplies, has placed an order from an overseas supplier for up to 2 million units of the gear, a portion of which is scheduled to be available for shipment later this week.

This week, he said, the state is also expecting a second shipment of supplies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Strategic National Stockpile. It is expected to be the same size as the state's first shipment, which included 27,880 respirator masks, 66,500 surgical masks and 12,576 face shields, among other items.

Although the state's supply is running low, Bo Ryall, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said hospitals are "managing right now.

"As more patients increase and come to the hospitals, we'll certainly see a greater shortage," he said.

Bledsoe said he has been working to connect health care providers with suppliers.

"What we've been told is that we're finding suppliers and they're signing contracts, and then the PPE is being diverted to other states," he said.

At Arkansas Heart Hospital, where he works, "I've been told we have a little PPE, but it won't last long," he said.

DRUGS UNPROVEN

Although President Donald Trump has touted the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as possible treatments for covid-19, Smith cautioned that "we have very little evidence" of the drugs' effectiveness against the coronavirus and that "there are significant side effects and drug interactions that most physicians are not very familiar with."

In guidance released Saturday, the Health Department said the drugs should be used against covid-19 only in a hospital and after consulting with an infectious disease physician.

"There's the potential to cause some very serious harm for medications that we really don't have very strong evidence for at all," Smith said.

Information for this article was contributed by Francisca Jones, Eric Besson, Jeannie Roberts and Jaime Adame of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A Section on 03/24/2020

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