Governor requests funds for 350 more tracers

A. Drew Smith
Booneville Democrat

In an effort to identify and stop chains of transmission, Health Secretary Nate Smith and Gov. Asa Hutchinson have requested 350 more contact tracers to double the number originally requested.

This request will cost approximately $22 million which the governor will request from the CARES Act steering committee.

The original 350 contact tracers were hired with the idea that Arkansas would have approximately 1,000 active cases at a time. With the number of active cases passing 5,500, the additional tracers will be necessary to keep up with the demand.

According to Smith, there is currently not a back log of contacts, but in order to get the job done more efficiently, the extra tracers are necessary.

The seven day average, the rate of hospitalizations and active cases are all on the rise which notes an increase in infections for more than just increased testing. On Wednesday, there were 697 additional cases, 267 hospitalizations and 240 deaths.

The numbers in Northwest Arkansas are still high, with Washington and Benton counties having 79 and 67 new cases respectively on Wednesday. Sebastian County had 40 additional cases Wednesday and was the fifth highest county in the state.

The 697 new cases on Wednesday were not concentrated in any one region of the state and the governor noted that COVID-19 is spreading through the regions at different rates and is therefore more difficult to track and predict.

Hutchinson further stated that the focused response on Northwest Arkansas seems to be working and therefore it would be possible to apply that response to the rest of the state in order to further slow the spread of the virus.