Ashley County Judge Jim Hudson’s office announced on a social media post Sunday morning that the Arkansas Department of Health had notified the office of a positive case of COVID-19 in Ashley County. 

The confirmation marks the first positive case for the county, which until Sunday had stood apart from the rest of the region as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 had spread across the state. 

The ADH did not list the number of cases in the county Monday, but said it was in the range of one to four.

Those who have COVID-19 can experience extreme respiratory distress, and in some instances the infection can prove fatal. The virus spreads through contact.

“Please remember to practice social distancing, washing your hands frequently, and stay home whenever possible,” the county judge’s office’s post said. “We are all in this together and need to do our part to curb the spread.”

As of 2:42 p.m. Monday, Arkansas had 471 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 62 required hospitalization and 21 required ventilators.

Among the confirmed patients, 17 were younger than 18, 307 were between ages of 19 and 64, and 149 were 65 or older.

Those who have tested positive for the disease are approximately 40 percent male and approximately 60 percent female.

State Health Secretary Nate Smith said Tuesday that five nursing homes around the state had patients or staff who tested positive. The total number of nursing-home related cases was 43.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said last week that in speaking with health officials, he was hearing experts say that the state is still “in the calm before the storm.”

“We are still on the front end of the COVID-19 emergency in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “While it has moved quickly in other states, here in Arkansas we do have time to plan, so we are not going to be in the position of some others (where) we don’t have sufficient hospital beds; we have ways to bring others on line if we get to that point.”

The governor has said the state can expect to see the outbreak peak in six to eight weeks. Based on projections from other states, approximately 1,000 Arkansans will require hospitalization, he said.

“There is more unknown than known about the future, but this is our best expectation at the present time,” he said Saturday. “I hope we are wrong, that the peak is not as high. I hope the trend is not as long. If we don’t reach those levels, we rejoice.”

The state has closed schools until April 17, and has banned sit-in service at restaurants and bars. 

Hutchinson has limited public gatherings to 10 people, and ordered health care facilities to screen all patients for symptoms of the virus. 

Residents are also encouraged to practice so-called social distancing, which includes maintaining significant space between themselves and others and avoiding interacting in person whenever possible.

Arkansas Medical Director of Immunizations Jennifer Dillaha urged residents to take social distancing seriously, including avoiding taking unnecessary trips to stores or areas where people interact with businesses.

“This is to protect ourselves as well as our friends and our families,” she said. 

“If we are taking care of ourselves, then we will be, in turn, taking care of our families.”

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