A CLOSER LOOK: a unique year of COVID-19

A Closer Look

1st COVID-19 case in Arkansas reported 3/11/2020

The Michael family gathers outside their home on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Jonesboro, Ark. Among the victims of the coronavirus is Keith Michael’s wife, fourth-grade Arkansas teacher Susanne Michael, who died less than three months after celebrating the adoption of three of the children. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — COVID-19 was headed toward pandemic status as of February 25, 2020, because it met two of three requirements: illness resulting in death and continuing person-to-person spread, but it had not reached worldwide spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Fifteen days later, on March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Then-President Donald Trump declared a National Emergency, allowing federal funding to be used to quell the virus.

No one was immune to the repercussions of COVID-19. The pandemic nearly halted the economy and in turn left many people jobless, homeless, and caused deaths — leaving many to die alone.

Here is a timeline of COVID-19 impacts in Arkansas

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, center, talks to reporters after meeting with his cabinet at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Hutchinson announced the state had recorded its first case of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Andrew Demillo)

The first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Arkansas was on March 11, 2020, in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County.

MARCH 15: There are 16 confirmed cases in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Gov. Hutchinson announced the closure of all public schools until after spring break.

MARCH 16: Arkansas announced “limited attendance for public events,” per CDC guidelines.

MARCH 17: Casinos closed for two weeks. The one-week waiting period for unemployment checks is waived.

MARCH 17: Nationally, the White House expanded the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This means Medicare can cover health visits the same as it would in-person visits. Prior to the waiver, Medicare could only pay for certain Telehealth services. Arkansas submitted a $116 million federal waiver on March 26.

MARCH 18: Arkansas ramped up funding to help businesses through COVID-19. Federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) helped with $12 million, $4 million from the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund, Small Business Administration for a disaster declaration, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) relaxed work requirements, and the program issued Pandemic-SNAP (P-EBT) cards.

MARCH 19: California was the first state to issue a “stay-at-home order,” something Arkansas never did. Gov. Hutchinson stated, “The question is, ‘are you accomplishing anything by doing that order?’” Six other states did not declare statewide “stay-at-home orders,”: IA, NE, ND, SD, UT, WY.

MARCH 19: All Arkansas public schools will close through at least April 17 for on-site instruction. Dine-in services by restaurants and bars were closed, with only carryout, curbside, pickup, and delivery options available.

MARCH 20: State government employees will work from home. Indoor venues and gyms are now closed.

MARCH 21: First-time unemployment filers in Arkansas was 9,275 for the week ending Mar. 21, and nearly tripled to 27,756 for the week ending Mar. 28, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

MARCH 23: Arkansas’ tax filing deadline is moved to July 15. Corporate taxes are still due April 15.

MARCH 24: A national study shows Arkansas at 47th as ‘least aggressive’ states in COVID-19 response.

MARCH 24: Barbershops, beauty and nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo shops are now closed.

First two COVID-19-related deaths are reported in Arkansas on the same day, March 24. A 90-year-old man from Faulkner County and a 59-year-old man from Pulaski County.

MARCH 26: Arkansas’ third death was a 73-year-old male from Cleburne County.

MARCH 27: Five total deaths related to COVID-19 are all in Central Arkansas. On this day two deaths involved a person in their 70s and the other person was in their 40s.

MARCH 27: National. The 116th U.S. Congress passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), it was signed into law by President Trump. The funds will be distributed to states and local governments. Arkansas received $1.25 billion to be used for expenses related to COVID-19.

MARCH 30: First nursing home death in Arkansas, seventh overall for the state. The woman, 83, lived at Briarwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Little Rock, Pulaski County.

MARCH 30: National. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of the anti-rheumatic drug hydroxychloroquine for virus protection. By June 4, The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine retracted two studies. The FDA and Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) rescinded the drug on June 15, except for patients in clinical trials.

APRIL 1: Temporary changes are implemented for Arkansas’ state parks. “Day use only” is created and overnight stays at cabins/campgrounds are nixed.

April 3: Walmart’s 50th shareholder’s meeting will be held virtually on June 3, CEO Doug McMillon announced. The reason? COVID-19.

APRIL 4: Highest week during the entire pandemic for first-time unemployment claims in the state — 62,086, this is for the week ending April 4, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

APRIL 5: Mary Blount is the oldest Arkansan to die from COVID-19. 107. She lived at Briarwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Pulaski County.

APRIL 15, 2020: The governor signed three Executive Orders. EO 20-17 created the Governor’s Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 responses. EO 20-18 removed limits on work hours for healthcare providers and other measures for those who work in the medical field. EO 20-19 expanded first responders and healthcare workers to file worker’s compensation claims if they are infected on the job.

APRIL 29: The COVID Tracking Project reports 45,440 Arkansans have been tested and 3,192 are positive test results. There are 93 (389 cumulative) people hospitalized, 18 are on ventilators, and 59 people have died. (State Population 2.9M, 2010 census).

APRIL 30: There are 60 COVID-19 related deaths. Approximately 51 were in April.

MAY 1, 2020:  Phase 1 re-opening of barber shops, tattoo shops, cosmetology establishments, massage clinics and spas. The use of face masks, gloves and social distancing are recommended. The ADH released the directive.

MAY 1-3: Five Cummins Unit prison inmates died. Daniel Wood, 61, (5/1), Ronnie West, 65, (5/2), Kenneth Olden, 49, (5/3), John Young, 71, (5/3), and Derick Coley 29, (5/2). The ADC requested an autopsy for Coley. The Lincoln County coroner’s report did not list a cause of death but states he was positive for the virus. The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) said Coley died of natural causes.  

MAY 5: The governor extended the state’s public health emergency. Executive Order 20-25 renewed the previous two orders, March 11 and March 26. 

MAY 12: National. The U.S. death toll of 80,000 is an underestimate, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, MD.

MAY 19: Bars associated with restaurants may open, but freestanding bars (not associated with restaurants) will stay shuttered.

MAY 21: National. The U.S. and AstraZeneca form a deal to produce a vaccine (AZD1222). Doses should be ready by mid-October.

MAY 23: National media reports an Arkansas swim party helped spread COVID-19. Gov. Hutchinson told CNN, “A high school swim party that I’m sure everybody thought was harmless. They’re young, they’re swimming, they’re just having activity and positive cases resulted from that.” The state is in the midst of a COVID-19 second peak, said the governor.

MAY 26: Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith accepted a top position with the CDC in Atlanta.

MAY 28: National. COVID-19 deaths passed 100,000 in the U.S.

MAY 29: Arkansas reports 132 COVID-19 related deaths. Approximately 72 deaths were in May.

JUNE 10: National. COVID-19 cases reach 2 million in the U.S.

JUNE 15: Phase 2 re-opening. ADH gave guidelines for gyms, fitness centers, manufacturers, construction companies, restaurants (66% capacity), bars and clubs (increased to 66% capacity), dental procedures, and casinos (increased to 66% capacity).

JUNE 15: Three Executive Orders were issued, 20-3320-3420-35, that pertain to employers/businesses, health care provider immunity, and workers compensation coverage, respectively. 

JUNE 16: Fayetteville published a mask mandate due to the COVID-19 spike.

JUNE 22: Based on COVID-19’s current trajectory, Dr. Fauci warned 100,000 cases per day could happen.

JUNE 26: Executive Order 20-40 (amends EO 20-37) renews the public health and disaster emergency due to COVID-19.

JUNE 29: The governor reverses course. He announced re-opening plans are on hold due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

JUNE 30: Arkansas reports 270 COVID-19 related deaths with approximately 138 deaths in June.

JULY 2: Two days prior to a holiday, Gov. Hutchinson reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases, 878.

JULY 6: National. The virus may spread by “airborne transmission” and scientists ask WHO to revise guidance. WHO complied three days later.

JULY 7: National. The U.S. reports 3 million COVID-19 infections. In Arkansas, a $20 million contact tracing contract is signed with General Dynamics.

JULY 10: COVID-19 will be a valid reason to request an absentee ballot.

JULY 11: New COVID-19 cases reach 1,061. It was the first time more than 1,000 new cases were reported in one day.

JULY 16: National. The U.S. reported a record of 75,600 COVID-19 cases in a day. In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson issued a statewide mask mandate.

JULY 22: National. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) partner with Pfizer and BioNTech for a vaccine.

JULY 27: National. Moderna vaccine begins Phase 3 trial. The U.S. reached a $1.5 billion deal on August 11.

JULY 31: Arkansas reported 453 COVID-19 related deaths with approximately 183 in July.

AUG. 5: The governor issued a directive lifting limitations on community and music practices/performances, effective immediately.

AUG. 10: Executive Order 20-44 pertains to the Special Elections on August 11, and the General Election on November 3. Meanwhile, the state surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 cumulative cases.

AUG. 17: The governor renewed the state of emergency and mandates related to the pandemic.

AUG. 18. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) released COVID-19 guidelines for the 2020 football season.

AUG. 21: Highest COVID-19 death record: 22, with 50% in nursing homes. The state’s total death count is 663.

AUG. 23: National. The FDA issued a EUA for using Convalescent Plasma as a COVID-19 treatment.

AUG. 28: National. Nevada reports its first reinfection case. This happened in May after recovering in April.

AUG. 31: ADH updates guidance on face coverings. Masks with valves are not allowed, bandanas/single-layer gaiters are discouraged.

AUG. 31: There were approximately 284 COVID-19-related deaths. Cumulatively there were 797.

SEPT. 8: Arkansas will use $4 million in CARES Act funding to buy 120,000 antigen tests.

SEPT. 14: National. Pfizer/BioNTech expanded to Phase 3 testing.

SEPT. 15: National. People who dined out were nearly 2.5 times to test positive for COVID-19, according to the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

SEPT. 16: National. A vaccine distribution plan is crafted by HHS and the DOD. The vaccine would be free for all Americans.

SEPT. 17: Internationally. Europe saw a more than 10% increase in COVID-19 cases.

SEPT. 21: National. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) began its Phase 3 vaccine trial. This would be a 1-shot vaccine.

SEPT. 23: National. A more contagious strain of COVID-19 is detected in the U.S.

SEPT. 25: National. Midwest states saw a COVID-19 increase. Health officials said it was a result of Labor Day weekend and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

SEPT. 28: Global deaths pass the 1 million mark. (Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation).

OCT. 2: National. President Trump and the first lady both tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. Trump was hospitalized for three days.

OCT. 3: Arkansas reported more than 1,400 deaths related to COVID-19. The highest day for hospitalization 529, the previous was 526 in early August.

OCT 8: National. COVID-19 outbreak at the White House, more than 34 became infected.

OCT. 13: Executive Order 20-40 (amends EO 20-37) renewed the public health/disaster emergency for 60 days. A record high for the number of new COVID-19 cases: 2,312, per ADH.

OCT 19: National. Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard reported 40 million global cases of the virus.

NOV. 4: National. One-hundred-thousand cases reported in one day in the U.S. On June 4, Dr. Fauci said cases could reach this high. In Arkansas, more than 2,000 cumulative COVID-19 related deaths have occurred, per ADH.

NOV.11: National. Indoor venues are places for COVID-19 spread, such as restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores.

NOV. 11: Arkansas Substitute Teacher of the Year died from COVID-19. George Yarbrough worked at the Conway Public School District for 16 years. A dozen Arkansas teachers have died from the virus.

NOV. 12: National. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at Seattle’s University of Washington projected 320,403 U.S. deaths by January 1 and 438,940 by March 1. Deaths could surpass the 1918 Spanish Flu of 675,000.

NOV. 13: COVID-19 impacted the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Coach Sam Pittman tested positive for the virus.

NOV. 13: A COVID-19 Winter Task Force was created.

NOV. 16: Highest COVID-19 death toll: 42. There have been more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, per ADH.

NOV. 17: National: Dr. Fauci discussed how COVID-19 side effects may result in the need for long-term follow-ups.

NOV. 18: Operation Warp Speed will cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when it becomes available, per ADH.

NOV. 19: The ADH issued a directive for bars, and businesses licensed to sell and allow consumption of alcohol on their premises (includes private clubs), must close at 11 p.m.

NOV. 20: National. The CDC warns about holiday travel. Discussed during a teleconference briefing were “ways to enjoy the upcoming holidays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

DEC. 10: National. Pfizer/BioNTech becomes the first COVID-19 vaccine endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA agrees to an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which allowed shipments to begin.

Dec. 14: At 8:10 a.m., the state received its first shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Healthcare workers were first to get vaccinated.

DEC. 18: National. FDA panel backed Moderna vaccine and signed off on an EUA.

DEC. 27:  The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 established a new $25 billion federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program for state, county, and municipal governments with populations of over 200,000. Benton County received $8,364,838.50 that can be distributed for this assistance until Dec. 31, 2021.

DEC. 29: National. The first UK variant found in Colorado. The man was in his 20s with no travel history.

DEC. 30: The governor signed EO 20-53. This renewed the Disaster and Public Health Emergency for an additional 60 days and can be renewed if necessary.

DEC. 31: National. The United States fell short of giving 20 million vaccinations by the end of the year.

COVID-19 in 2021

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine distributions during a at a news conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Demillo)

JAN. 2: The ADH directives updated, for the fourth time, regarding indoor venues and hours of operation for establishments that offer alcohol (must close by 11 p.m.).

JAN. 6: Arkansas began Phase-1-A of a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

JAN. 20: The state began Phase 1-B’s first tier for vaccine distribution. 

FEB. 1: The ADH reported 1,901 cumulative deaths in nursing homes (NH) related to COVID-19. In less than two weeks there were 166 deaths. NH deaths represented nearly 48% of total confirmed COVID-19-related deaths in Arkansas. The state has 226 licensed homes. 

FEB. 12: Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies began administering COVID-19 vaccines in Arkansas through the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. More than 1,000 locations in 22 states are participating. 

FEB. 23: Arkansas House passed two bills related to the impact of federal COVID-19 relief on taxes in the state (HB 1361HB 1049).

On March 2, 2021, President Biden announced enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for all adult Americans by the end of May.

MARCH 2: The UK variant of COVID-19, B.1.1.7, has been found in Arkansas, according to the CDC.

MARCH 3: Eleven states, including Arkansas, relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions. President Biden did not agree with the states that announced removing mask mandates, Texas and Mississippi, calling it “Neanderthal thinking.” Arkansas will keep the mask mandate in place until Mar. 31, if positivity rates stay low.

MARCH 7: The COVID Tracking Project ceased publishing on its one-year anniversary. This site “compiled, published, and interpreted vitally important COVID-19 data as a service to their fellow Americans.”

MARCH 10: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the final version of a sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

As of March 10, 2021, there have been 1,697 cumulative deaths related to COVID-19 (Jan. 1 to Mar. 10). That’s an average of 24 deaths per day.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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