Arkansas details state’s preparations for coronavirus threat

February 28, 2020 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that he’s told state agencies to develop contingency plans for a possible outbreak of the new coronavirus, though the state has not had any confirmed cases.

Hutchinson told reporters he has spoken with Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the nation’s response to the virus that has infected more than 83,000 globally and killed about 2,800. The illness caused by the coronavirus is called COVID-19. Sixty cases have been confirmed in the U.S.


The governor said the agencies developing plans in case of an outbreak include the state Department of Human Services, which oversees the state’s Medicaid and child protective programs.

“We have to have a plan to be able to continue that work regardless of what might happen in the future,” Hutchinson said. He said he’s also told the Department of Education to develop guidance for schools around the state.

Hutchinson’s comments come as other states are similarly ramping up efforts to prepare for an outbreak and reassuring the public.

Hutchinson said he told Pence there’s a need for state-level testing for the virus, which he said he expects Arkansas to have next week. Hutchinson also said he told the vice president that the nation needs an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, such as masks.

Hutchinson said residents of Arkansas need to follow the same steps as they do to prevent of flu, which has hit the state hard.

“Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and don’t go to work if you’re sick,” Hutchinson said. “A very common sense approach to this, and that’s what we’re asking Arkansans to do.”