Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday that the state has reported an additional four cases of the novel coronavirus since the day before, bringing the total number of people infected with COVID-19 in the state to 16.
“We’re continuing to educate our children, we’re continuing to produce and do business, but at same time we have to address this challenge and we’re doing it in a very quick fashion,” Hutchinson said on Sunday. “We have mobilized our emergency operations center, we’re responding to the inquiries from the public through toll numbers and then we’re utilizing our National Guard to provide support where needed.”
He went on to say that the biggest challenge that the state is facing is “increasing our capacity in testing.”
Hutchinson said he spoke with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials on Saturday in an effort to “increase that capacity very quickly.”
“We are worried about what we don’t know and we’re continuing to make sure that we can do the testing and provide the information we need to the public,” he said on Sunday.
Hutchinson went on to say that the state’s greatest need currently are the “Things we can’t produce here, which is [sic] a machine to increase testing.”
“We not only need one new machine, we need multiple new machines. Right now we’re dependent on the private sector to produce those,” he said. “I’ve urged the administration to be more engaged and to use emergency powers to help direct the supply chain for essential testing equipment that the states need.”
“If there’s a backlog, we need to make sure it is not simply private sector decisions as to what the priorities are, but the federal government help shape that,” Hutchinson continued.
When asked if he received a positive response from the Trump administration when he made the request, Hutchinson said, “They’re looking into that.”
“It is running up the chain,” he explained. “I’ll be raising that with the vice president and others but, they’re very responsive. They want to do anything they can to cut the red tape and so I hope they will be helpful in this way.”
Among the latest to test positive for the novel coronavirus in Arkansas are three health care workers, Hutchinson and state Secretary of Health Dr. Nathaniel Smith said Saturday.
The three are connected to the state’s first confirmed case and are now quarantined, Smith added. A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Health confirmed the presumptive positive case to Fox News on Wednesday.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, including a fever and cough, but for some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
On Sunday, Hutchinson outlined the safety measures that are being implemented in Arkansas to try and contain the spread of COVID-19. He said it is recommended that the size of gatherings stay under 200 people in the state. He also addressed school closures in Arkansas.
“Early on, when central Arkansas had a number of positive cases, we did close schools in a four-county area until we got a handle on this,” he said on Sunday. “Since then the CDC has given very good guidelines that are helpful to us and said school closings is not the way to go.”
“Whenever you have a positive case you might have to close down for a couple days for deep cleaning, but we need to keep our schools operational,” he continued. “We need to keep them open unless there is a confirmed case that you have to deal with and so, we’ve limited it to a few counties. We’re keeping our schools open more broadly than that.”
He then acknowledged that “this is going to be with us a while.”
The U.S. has seen 60 deaths and more than 2,100 cases of COVID-19, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
Fox News’ Madeline Farber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.