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Real-time updates: Arkansas expands rapid COVID-19 testing

Here is a look at the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) headlines from around Arkansas for Sunday, April 19.

ARKANSAS, USA — RELATED: Real-time updates: Over 1,800 coronavirus cases in Arkansas, 41 deaths

We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas.

Credit: Arkansas Department of Health

All cases are confirmed through the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

RELATED: Tracking COVID-19: Northwest Arkansas & River Valley Coronavirus Interactive Map

RELATED: Navy identifies Fort Smith sailor who died of COVID-19

Live updates: 

April 19 1:36 - Governor Hutchinson reports 1781 confirmed cases and 40 deaths during today's press conference. There are two new deaths since yesterday, one was a healthcare worker.

The Governor also mentioned he is working with the Cummins prison parole board to find nonviolent offenders who could be up for possible release to help reduce the spread. 

April 18 8:30 p.m. - The number of confirmed cases go up to 1,777, deaths remain at 38.

April 18 1:40 p.m. - During the press conference, Governor Hutchinson announces a rapid COVID-19 test available now in Arkansas.

The Governor also signed an executive order to create an economic task force. 

April 18 11:45 p.m. - Arkansas Department of Health reports 1,739 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 38 deaths.

April 17 1:55 p.m. - May 4th is the date Arkansas plans to reach Phase 1 of the White House's Opening Up America Again Guidelines. If met, Arkansas will start lifting restrictions set in place due to COVID-19 to reopen the economy.  

April 17 1:35 p.m. -

  • 1,695 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas 
  • 22,675 total tests
  • 21,055 negative test results
  • 37 reported deaths
  • 548 recoveries

April 17 -  ADH: 1620 confirmed coronavirus cases in Arkansas with 548 recoveries reported. 

April 16 1:47 p.m. - Unemployment website: arunemployment.com. The hotline will now be operating six days a week from 6 a.m - 4 p.m.

April 16 1:45 p.m. - 150,000 unemployment claims filed and processed in Arkansas. ADH Smith: "We should start planning our post-peak" watching the curve continue to flatten. Looking at how quickly they can pull back the directives. 

April 16 1:40 p.m. - Dr. Nate Smith: 

  • 1,035 active cases in the state
  • 21 on ventilators
  • 548 recoveries
  • 223 health care workers, 81 have recovered
  • 118 nursing home residents
  • They are expecting testing results from correctional facilities later today.

April 16 1:30 p.m. - Gov. Asa Hutchinson daily coronavirus update in Arkansas:

April 15 9:00 p.m. - There are now 1,599 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Arkansas. There are now 34 deaths, 509 recoveries and a total of 22,289 people have been tested.

April 15 3:50 p.m. - An employee at the Lowell Post Office has tested positive for coronavirus.

April 15 1:48 p.m. - Gov. Hutchinson said Arkansas's expected COVID-19 peak has now shifted to May 2. 

April 15 1:47 p.m. - Gov. Hutchinson: Announced approval of a waiver to allow bonus payments for longterm care services from Medicaid funds. Payments go to direct care workers: nurses, nurse aides, home healthcare aides, assisted living care workers, respiratory therapists, etc. $125-$500 a week depending on hours worked to go to qualified healthcare workers. He’s also requesting funding for non-direct care hospitals and nursing homes from state CARES task force. 

April 15 1:46 p.m. - Dr. Smith: Announced expansion of testing criteria to included symptomatic people under 65 and no underlying health conditions. 

April 15 1:45 p.m. - Dr. Nate Smith:

April 15 1:40 p.m. - Gov. Asa Hutchinson on coronavirus in Arkansas: 

  • 1,569 COVID-19 cases in the state 
  • 83 hospitalized 
  • One new death, totaling 33 so far

April 15 11:32 a.m. - Gov. Hutchinson announced that he will be providing an update about the response to the coronavirus in Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Little Rock. 

Governor Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, will provide an update to media this afternoon, Wednesday, A...

April 15 10:00 a.m. - The Arkansas Department of Health is now reporting over 1,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.

RELATED: Real-time updates: 1,498 coronavirus cases in Arkansas, call to reopen will remain the state's decision

Coronavirus Symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Credit: Mayo Clinic

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

I’m on social security. Do I need to file a tax return to receive my benefits?

No. If an individual has not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the government will use an individual's 2019 SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement or 2019 RRB-1099 Railroad Retirement Benefit Statement to advance payments to individuals who receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits. All Social Security beneficiaries-retired workers, disabled workers, eligible family members, and survivors-receive a Form SSA-1099. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are not provided a Form SSA-1099. SSI recipients who also receive Social Security benefits will be automatically forwarded a payment. SSI recipients who do not receive Social Security benefits will need to file a 2019 tax return to receive a payment if they are otherwise eligible. If an individual started receiving Social Security payments in 2020, they will need to file a 2019 tax return to be eligible. Adults who are claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's return are not eligible for a payment.

What do I need to do about my federal student loans?

Federal student loan borrowers do not need to take any action to suspend payments. Your federal student loan servicer will suspend all payments without any action from you. You do not need to contact your student loan servicer. While federal student loan payments are suspended, the loans shall not accrue any interest and the month of a suspended loan payment will be treated as if a loan had been made for purposes of loan forgiveness and loan rehabilitation. The suspension period will result in no negative credit reporting and also involuntary collection of the loan will be suspended—no wage garnishments, tax intercepts, offset of federal benefits, or any other collection activity. These protections do not apply to borrowers with Perkins Loans and borrowers whose FFEL loans are held by banks or guaranty agencies. If you have a Perkins Loan or an FFEL loan that is privately owned, you should contact your loan servicer to explore options they may be offering.

When will I get my check and how much will it be?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he expects most people to get their payments within approximately three weeks.

For Individual Filers: Americans who file their taxes as individuals will receive up to $1,200 in assistance. If your income was less than $75,000 in 2019, you will receive the full amount of $1,200. For those making above $75,000, reduced checks on a sliding scale will be paid. For every $100 you make over $75,000, your assistance will be reduced by $5.

For Married Couples Filing Jointly: Americans who file taxes jointly will receive up to $2,400 plus $500 for every dependent under the age of 17. If your joint income was less than $150,000 in 2019, you will receive the full amount of $2,400 plus $500 for every dependent under 17. For couples making above $150,000, reduced checks on a sliding scale will be paid. For every $100 you make over $150,000, your assistance will be reduced by $5.

I just lost my job. What are my options in terms of unemployment benefits?

 Congress recently passed a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which will make certain Arkansans who lost their jobs due to the public health emergency are eligible for unemployment insurance, provided an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, and provided an additional $600/week in unemployment insurance through July 31. Arkansas normally offers 16 weeks of unemployment insurance; because of the new program, Arkansans will be eligible for a total of 29 weeks.

Individuals Eligible for Normal Unemployment InsuranceUnemployed workers who are eligible for traditional unemployment insurance will receive their normal income-based payment plus $600 a week until July 31st. If an individual is still unemployed after July 31, their payment will revert down to the traditional payment they would have received before the crisis.  

Individuals Newly Eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployed workers who wouldn’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits but are now unemployed as a result of the pandemic will receive $600 a week plus an amount that the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services determines until July 31. After July 31, their payments will revert down to the amount that ADWS determines. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and “gig economy” employees will all be covered. However, to qualify, an individual must have lost their job or income due to the virus, tested positive or exhibited symptoms of the virus, or be caring for a member of your household or family who has been diagnosed with the virus.

Individuals who have had their hours cut: Arkansas offers partial unemployment benefits to certain individuals who have had their hours cut. Please contact the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to determine if you are eligible.  

You can find more information on Senator Cotton’s website, here.