Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an additional aid to healthcare workers working directly with COVID-19 patients during Tuesday’s press briefing.


Hutchinson opened his briefing by extending his condolences to the 72,000 Arkansans who were without power due to the tornadoes in the southern part of the state last week. According to the governor, over 4,000 utility workers were working to get the power back on.


With 71 more positive coronavirus cases, Arkansas on Wednesday had 1,569 positive tests and 1,047 active cases.


The hospital numbers remained steady with 83 on Wednesday, but there was an additional death that raised the number to 33.


As of Wednesday, the University of Washington’s projection for Arkansas to reach the peak of virus cases was May 2. This is nearly a week later than their previous projection of April 27.


Hutchinson said that this change of date is to be expected as the curve flattens. Though this means it could take longer to pass, the governor believes this will reduce the total number of cases.


The governor announced the state’s application to Medicaid for what amounts to hazard pay for those working directly with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.


For many direct care workers, Medicaid funding will cover these bonuses. Those in hospitals will receive funds from the CARES Act.


Part-time workers will receive $125 per week and full-time workers will receive $250 per week. Hutchinson also noted that shift workers averaging 150 hours per month will receive the same as full-time workers.


The steering committee for these funds will also explore providing these bonuses to employees that do not work directly with the patients, but come in contact with contaminated items. This would include janitors and other secondary contact employees.


Health Secretary Nate Smith shared that, due to expanded capacity in commercial and state labs, there will be more tests available for those with symptoms.


Smith stated that they will still not be testing people without symptoms. Previously, Arkansas was prioritizing those over age 65 or those under 65 with underlying conditions. Now, the state has the capacity to test anyone with symptoms if the facility has the supplies.