JONESBORO — A local judge has placed himself under quarantine and Gov. Asa Hutchinson has canceled his public schedule for the week after possible contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Craighead County District Judge Tommy Fowler took himself off the bench on Thursday for a 14-day quarantine after receiving a text from a physician. The doctor informed him that a patient who had appeared in court on Monday had tested positive. That patient had symptoms, but thought it was a sinus allergy, Fowler said.
So, the judge is working from home, including issuing search and arrest warrants when necessary.
Fowler said he had already been scheduled to be off work next week. So far, he said, he has not tested positive for the disease and has no symptoms.
The governor has limited his public schedule after learning someone who had attended a meeting with him had tested positive.
“We have regularly conducted our meetings with social distancing and mask wearing as needed,” the governor said. “In one meeting I had last Friday in the Governor’s Conference Room, there was an individual in the meeting that later tested positive for COVID-19. Even though I remained over six feet away from the individual tested, as a precaution, I had a COVID-19 test early Monday morning, an antigen test that was negative, followed by a PCR test that was also negative. While the meeting did not rise to the level of CDC quarantine guidance, out of concern for the comfort level of others in meetings, I will be limiting my public appearances.”
However, during an online news conference, he admitted to traveling across the state Monday to campaign for Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment to support highway funding. One of those stops was in Jonesboro.
Also Tuesday, state Senate President Jim Hendren said the Legislature was postponing its budget hearings after two House members and one senator tested positive for the virus.
The House members are Michelle Gray of Melbourne and Stu Smith of Batesville, The Associated Press reported. Hendren said legislative leaders will work with the Health Department to determine who must be quarantined and tested because of any potential exposure.
Craighead County had the fourth-most new cases Tuesday with 32, followed by Crittenden at 25 and Greene with 21. Statewide, thee were 628 confirmed new cases, bringing the total of 94,418 confirmed cases since the pandemic reached Arkansas in March. Combined with cases considered “probable,” the total is 100,441. Confirmed COVID deaths grew by 14, including one each in Lawrence, Randolph, Cross and Mississippi counties, bringing the total to 1,576. Hospitalizations rose by 24 to 637 statewide, of those 101 were on ventilators, an increase of two.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force weekly report said Arkansas had the 12th highest rate of new infections and Craighead County ranked third among 75 counties, behind Pulaski and Washington. Craighead County has the eighth highest population statewide. Arkansas had 206 new cases per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 117, said the White House report.
“Arkansas must continue the strong mitigation efforts statewide,” the report said. “Mitigation efforts should continue to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private and ensuring flu immunizations.”
The White House report also recommended stronger actions in 16 counties, mostly in the northeastern corner of the state, that are classified in the Red Zone.
“In red and orange counties, both public and private gatherings should be as small as possible and optimally not extend beyond immediate family,” the task force recommended.
Craighead, Greene, Mississippi, Independence, Jackson, Poinsett, Baxter and Izard counties are among Red Zone counties. Randolph and St. Francis are in the Yellow Zone.
A major factor in the growing numbers in Northeast Arkansas is outbreaks in nursing homes. A separate Arkansas Department of Health report showed 71 new cases among residents and 30 employees
Lawrence Hall in Walnut Ridge, and, as of Friday, there were still 112 active cases of the virus among residents and 52 among employees. Six residents and 10 employees have recovered. Two residents have died, according to the weekly report.
On Oct. 12, 18 new cases among residents and 11 employees of Ridgecrest Health and Rehabilitation of Jonesboro were reported. That facility had 42 active cases among residents and 23 among employes.
Three new cases were reported Thursday at St. Elizabeth’s Place in Jonesboro among residents and two among employees. Also Thursday, the Waters of Newport had 1 new infection among residents, and Randolph County Nursing Home of Pocahontas had two new infections, bringing the cumulative total to 76. Seventeen residents died during a previous outbreak.
The Springs of Jonesboro had three new cases among residents on Friday.
Northeast Arkansas COVID-19 cases by county through Tuesday:
Craighead – 3,921 confirmed (up 32 from Monday), 193 probable (up 6); 526 active cases (down 24); 32 confirmed deaths, 4 probable.
Greene – 1,203 confirmed (up 20), 73 probable (down 3); 199 active (up 3); 16 confirmed deaths,
Lawrence – 676 confirmed (up 15), 71 probable (up 1); 160 active (down 21); 15 confirmed deaths.
Poinsett – 884 confirmed (up 12), 153 probable (down 1); 148 active (up 3); 16 confirmed deaths, 1 probable.
Mississippi – 2,017 confirmed (up 19), 77 probable (down 3); 224 active cases (unchanged); 53 confirmed deaths, 11 probable.
Jackson – 482 confirmed (up 20), 160 probable (up 3); 151 active cases (up 12); 4 confirmed deaths, 1 probable.
Randolph – 491 confirmed (down 2), 103 probable (up 3); 75 active cases (down 5); 19 confirmed deaths, 5 probable.
Cross – 506 confirmed (up 2), 45 probable (up 5); 43 active cases (up 4); 20 confirmed deaths, 2 probable.
Clay – 416 confirmed (up 13), 27 probable (unchanged); 66 active cases (up 10);, 9 confirmed deaths, 2 probable.