Hutchinson

During his daily new conference Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that he is pushing the individual tax filing date for the state of Arkansas to July 15.

"This mirrors the same deadline as the federal government," Hutchinson said. 

He spoke with Senate Pro Tem Jim Hendren and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd about the deadline change and got their support. 

The corporate tax deadline and the estimated payments for the current year will remain the same. 

As a result of this change, the state is looking at a $160 million gap in its budget which must be balanced by June 30, Hutchinson said. Over the next three months, the state has estimated at $353 million budget shortfall. 

As a result of the tax deadline and shortfall, Hutchinson said it is necessary to call a special session of the general assembly to fill in the holes in the budget. He is working with members on a time frame for the session. 

He plans to use the reserve to fill part of the gap to ensure essential services like healthcare and child welfare continues. 

He added there will also be "a serious belt tightening." The government will look at all budgets to see where cuts can be made. Hutchinson said those cuts will not include layoffs. 

He said it is too early to determine exactly what the cuts will look like. 

Hutchinson said the surplus money is also needed for a quick response to needs relating to the pandemic. 

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health, showed a map that can be found at www.healthy.arkansas.gov. He said that map, along with case totals, will be updated four times every day. 

Smith reported that five people in the state have met its criteria for recovery. The criteria is different depending on if a person is in or out of the hospital, he said. It is seven days after the onset of symptoms or three days after the resolution of symptoms, whichever is longer. 

As of press time, the state has 206 cases, up from 165 at the start of Monday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Also, there have been seven recoveries in the state.

Nationwide, there are 46,481 positive cases with 593 deaths.

Arkansas has tested 1,153 individuals, returning with 947 negative outcomes.

Per its most recent report, the World Health Organization says there are currently more than 332,000 positive cases worldwide with 14,510 deaths.

At the time of the press conference, cases were at 174 and Smith said that was the smallest one-day increase in several days because the state has been focusing on testing the cases in three nursing homes — Apple Creek Nursing and Rehab in Centerton, The Villages of General Baptist West in Pine Bluff and Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab in Little Rock. 

There was only one additional case from those locations and they are almost done with testing. Smith is encouraged by the large number of negative cases in those locations. 

Also at the time of the conference, 10 cases were children, 63 were those age 65 and older and 101 were those ages 19 to 64. He reported 60 percent were women and 40 percent men. 

Twenty percent were African-American, 70 percent were white and 10 percent were of other ethnic groups. 

Also, nine of the cases were hospitalized and six were on a ventilator. 

In order to decrease the chances of spread, the state ordered all salons, barbershops, massage parlors and tattoo shops to temporarily cease operations. 

This decision came days after Hutchinson ordered all restaurants, bars and gyms to close or offer take-out only options.

Smith warned that there has been discussions of the use of hydroxycholorquine, chloroquine and zithromax. 

Smith said there is little evidence to show benefits, but it does have significant side effects. 

"There is the potential to cause the user harm," he said. 

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe discussed the need for personal protective equipment for healthcare providers. 

"This is a very serious situation," he said. 

The state is working with the private sector in an effort to acquire more PPE. They have run into the problem of PPE being diverted to other states. 

Bledsoe said the current stock of PPE will not last long. The state was initially given 25 percent of its request for PPE from the federal government and will getting an additional 25 percent. 

The state has ordered 2 million units from overseas. Some of the supplies are expected by the end of the week. 

The governor is continuing to hold daily news conferences to keep the public informed.

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