Four coronavirus cases confirmed in Craighead County
JONESBORO — The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose to at least four in Craighead County Monday, and Lawrence County recorded its first case.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported Monday afternoon there were 174 cases statewide. Though the state only lists a range of 1 to 4 for Craighead, Greene, Poinsett and Lawrence counties, The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has produced an interactive map that provides more specific details. The map showed only one case in Greene County and three cases in Poinsett County.
The Johns Hopkins map showed Pulaski County, the state’s most populous, had 54 cases, followed by Cleburne County, one of the state’s least densely populated areas, with 25.
Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said the county Office of Emergency Management received a shipment of protective masks on Sunday, and they were distributed to volunteer first responder organizations.
Mayor Harold Perrin praised Jonesboro residents who are actively and responsibly practicing social distancing, and encouraged everyone to find the resilience needed for the weeks to come as the novel coronavirus is growing as health and local government officials anticipated. “As COVID-19 has been confirmed and expanding in our community, we are taking important next steps at the City of Jonesboro,” Perrin said. “So far, we see most of our residents doing a fantastic job of social distancing, which is encouraging.
“But we’re also seeing people who are not behaving responsibly, and it creates tension for the rest of us. It is absolutely critical that everyone take this seriously, and that means no hugs and no handshakes.”
During his daily briefing Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he plans to call a special legislative session to deal with an anticipated $353 million shortfall in tax revenue for the final three months of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Hutchinson said the state can use $173 million in unallocated surplus funds from the previous year to ensure that both the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and other agencies that work with people directly affected by the pandemic.
“So we will utilize and manage the unallocated surplus to accomplish the broader mission of state government, even though it’s going to be a serious belt-tightening time for all of state government, except for those that are on the front lines of the current crisis,” Hutchinson said.
Despite the revenue shortfall, the governor said the state would push back the deadline for filing individual tax returns to July 15 to match the new federal deadline.
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Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nathanial Smith also announced a directive that will go into effect today instructing all barber and beauty shops, nail salons, massage therapists and tattoo shops to cease operation temporarily.
Police Chief Rick Elliott said officers are now making rounds to these businesses for compliance of the Governor’s order. Perrin said businesses that ignore this order risk loss of their business licenses for five years, and he stressed that residents who do not practice social distancing risk more than their own health. Last week the governor mandated no gatherings of more than 10 people.
“Let’s be clear: You could lead to serious consequences for a loved one,” Perrin said. “I would hate for someone to have to live with that guilt.”
A business page providing resources and guidelines for small businesses, as well as employees who work or were laid off – has been added to the COVID19 webpage at Jonesboro.org. The Arkansas Department of Health’s website, healthy.arkansas. gov, offers programs and services for residents, businesses, health care, education and many other specific groups in the service community.
St. Bernards Healthcare has created numerous strategies to adapt to the coronavirus outbreak, including moving all urgent care needs – non-coronavirus related – to the Red Wolf Boulevard location at 333 Red Wolf Blvd. It has created a COVID-19 self-assessment at sAtbernards.info/ coronavirus.
City Attorney Carol Duncan said her office is still serving the public.
“Any citizen needing to file an affidavit for criminal charges may still get those from the Craighead County District Court, or online on the City of Jonesboro webpage, and return them to the Jonesboro Police Department Warrants Division at 410 West Washington,” she said.
“Please make sure you leave a working phone number and an email address, where available, so that you can be contacted about your affidavit if we need further information. If you have the ability to email an affidavit, it should be emailed to howens@ jonesboro.com. If you are returning an affidavit by email, there is no need to have your signature verified by the court or a notary public. If your affidavit is approved for criminal charges, we will make arrangements to notarize your signature.”
Banks seeing surge in online transactions
JONESBORO — Online banking may have never been more popular than it is today.
As Northeast Arkansas adjusts to the changes in everyday life during the coronavirus pandemic, local bankers say they’ve seen a surge in online banking and the use of mobile banking apps.
As people try to practice social distancing, those two platforms have increasingly become more a part of their daily routine.
“We have seen an increase in online transactions and mobile banking and we’ve got a great mobile banking platform,” Davy Carter, Regional President at Centennial Bank, said Wednesday. “A lot of our customers have really shifted their daily routine to that. We have definitely seen an increase. It’s been nice to have that available for the customer base. They’re definitely using it more.”
Many of the same things customers do at their bank in person can be done online or through a mobile app.
Online banking offers the convenience of transferring funds from one account to another as well as paying bills. One of its better features is these things can be done at any time of the day or night, weekends or even holidays.
Focus Bank Market President Brent Martin is recommending online banking as an alternative and people have taken to it.
“We have all online banking services available to everyone,” Martin said. “We’re advising people to use their online services. You can transfer money, you can pay bills, you can do all that stuff online. A lot of people are doing that already but we have seen an uptick in traffic there, too.”
In a time where social distancing has become the norm, online banking has become a useful tool.
“Fortunately, we’ve invested a lot of resources in our technology over the past several years,” said Jerry Morgan, Jonesboro market president at First National Bank. “We’ve made a big push for our customers to utilize our digital options. Most banking services can be accomplished online and this helps limit those unnecessary trips to the bank.”
For those without internet service, all banks in Jonesboro are still conducting operations through drive-thru window service.
Recently, local banks closed their lobbies in an effort to comply with social distancing recommendations by the federal government. But drive-thru service remains an option for almost all types of banking locally.
“Last week, we along with I think every other bank in town, went to a drive-thru service model with the social distancing to do our part of what’s being asked of everyone,” Carter said. “That’s all gone really well. Our customers have adapted wonderfully. We are still providing all of the services that we otherwise have provided under a normal operational model. All the customers have been very understanding.”
Focus Bank is also allowing customers by appointment only to come inside to retrieve lock boxes, apply for loans and other needs.
Customers at First National Bank can arrange for similar needs, too, while other banks are conducting such business through drive-thru window service.
“We’re still open for business, it’s just we’re trying to do everything we can possibly do through a drive-thru to limit any type of contact,” Martin said.
Admittedly, business does take a little longer with wait times in drive-thru lines. But it remains steady and strong.
“I’ve actually been amazed at the number of checking accounts that we have opened through this,” Martin added.
Harding University student with COVID19 on quarantine
SEARCY — A 22-yearold Harding University senior diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday said Wednesday afternoon that she hopes “the worst of my virus is over.”
Emily Davis said she is on self-quarantine for 14 days and will be retested about 10 days from Friday.
“It will probably be April 3, the first week of April,” Davis said. “From my understanding I’m the only one (COVID-19 case in White County).
“I think it’s crazy that I’m part of history now. You hear people getting it and you never think it’s going to be you.”
The Arkansas Department of Health reports that there are 1-4 confirmed cases in the county, as of Wednesday afternoon.
Davis, who is originally from Wynne but graduated from high school in Minnesota and her parents are in California now so “she’s kind of from all over, said she calls Searcy home because she has been here four years.
“I am majoring in communication sciences and disorders which is speech pathology so honestly this whole upper respiratory is right up my alley,” Davis said. “I am in speech and voice science right now and we talk about lung capacity and diseases of the lung and stuff so that is very weird to be doing something that kind of relates to my major.”
Although Davis is unsure when she contracted the illness, she said, “I just went to Mexico on spring break with my friend’s family; thankfully they invited me, it was so sweet of them. I didn’t feel sick at all. I was there from the 7th to the 14th (of March) and so during that time that was when the coronavirus was not as rampant as it is now and everyone freaking out about it like it is now.
“We didn’t even think twice about going to Mexico because of the coronavirus and I think that’s important to understand because I think a lot of people think I’m just this kid going to Mexico when this virus was out. The timeline when I was there, no one was nervous about this virus just yet.”
According to Davis, they didn’t hear anything about the coronavirus until that Thursday when they were in Mexico and were supposed to be flying out Saturday.
“The news we heard was that Harding was going to go to online classes. That Thursday is when everything got bad here in the United States so during that time the stock market dropped and so we figured, ‘We have to get home,’” she said. “We called a couple of people with the airline and honestly, we stuck with our flight on Saturday because that was the soonest we could get home.
“We got on our flight Saturday (March 14) and it was a direct flight from Cancun to Nashville (Tenn.).”
Asked how soon after she got home that she started feeling bad, Davis said, “I didn’t feel bad until the next Friday, the 20th. All my symptoms just happened so quickly. I just went downhill so quick. It wasn’t like one symptom one day; one symptom the other day. It was simply a cough in the morning on Friday and I got some hot flashes and I said, “OK, I need to check my temperature.”
“I was out of breath and I didn’t really think anything of it, really, and I thought maybe it was sinuses, sinus trouble. Later that night is when I knew something was really wrong. That Saturday morning is when I went to get tested for COVID-19.”
Davis said she went to the PrimeCare Medical Clinic in Searcy to get the COVID-19 test.
“They made me wait in my car so I never went it. They got all the information from the phone,” she said. “They were fully equipped. I wasn’t going to the doctor but my mom said call first and let them know what’s going on. PrimeCare has a screening on their website, has a screening questions, and they kind of let me know the steps to take. So you fill out that screening in the parking lot.
“They weren’t concerned really until I told them I was out of the country and that just raises eyebrows because I didn’t tell them where until I got there and I said, ‘Mexico.’ They said, ‘Even if it wasn’t in America we have to test you.’ It is just like the flu test. They tested me for flu and strep throat and they went ahead and gave me the COVID test after the strep throat and then he did the flu.”
After Davis was tested, she said she was told wouldn’t know her results until Thursday but was called instead Monday. She said she had been told if she was feeling bad when she got home to call the clinic for things like cough medicine.
“I didn’t feel bad enough like I needed an inhaler until Sunday night when I was very short of breath and I think I honestly just got worked up,” Davis said. “I called PrimeCare and they went ahead and sent me to the ER (at Unity Health-White County Medical Center).”
She said when she got there, it was the same safety procedures and they took her to a quarantine room “with all the big suits and helmets.”
“I told them I tested positive for COVID and that’s when they gave the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) all the information about me and things like that,” she said.
Asked if she could pinpoint when she may have contracted the virus, Davis said,”I think a thing to remember is that a lot of the public doesn’t realize this disease is so unknown; nobody really knows the amount of time you can pick it up. I know it’s like within 14 days in the incubation, but then I was also told it could be four days. So, in all honesty there is just not much that information about the coronavirus.
“Of course they asked me, ‘Where do you think you picked this up.’ They said just in their professional opinion they think either I picked it up at the airport (in Nashville) or even around town.”
She said she believes it is important to remember “that it’s different for everyone.”
While she is on self-quarantine, Davis said she has :mainly been talking to the (Arkansas) health department. I have an assigned person that calls and checks up on me every day and she is getting all the information, what airline I flew on and all of that to put in the database. They are closely monitoring me and kind of tracking my symptoms so I kind of tell them every day and every other day how I am feeling.”
Davis said she would advise residents, “If you don’t have to go out, don’t. Although you think you may not think you have it, you could be a carrier and just please stay health. Please wash your hands because there’s really no telling where I got it either.”
She said having the virus has “made me realize that there are so many people that are willing to pray for me and be there for me and I just didn’t really realize that.”
“There are people who I haven’t spoken to in years that are calling me and texting me that they and their families are praying for me. Just so much support that I literally have no idea how to thank everyone,” she said. “I am just so thankful everyone is on my side during this.”