The first Arkansas case of COVID-19, commonly called the coronavirus, has been confirmed in the southeast part of the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday that a COVID-19-positive patient was being kept in an isolation area in a Pine Bluff hospital.

The patient has a history of out-of-state travel, and the governor said there is no indication that COVID-19 is spreading at large in the state.

Hutchinson also signed an executive order declaring a public health emergency Wednesday. The order is intended to help state agencies coordinate and act in response to the virus’ presence in the state.

“For months, Arkansas has been well prepared to respond to COVID-19,” Hutchinson said. “More than two months ago, the Arkansas Department of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Nathaniel Smith, designated more than 70 of its employees to work exclusively on COVID-19. The team has worked tirelessly to coordinate our state’s response to a potential COVID-19 outbreak. 

“Today, I also asked each of my Cabinet secretaries to prepare a continuity of operation plan in the event of an outbreak of the virus. I have also been in frequent communication with Vice President Mike Pence, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and numerous other governors for updates and information.

“The State is taking measures to respond to the confirmed case appropriately and swiftly so that information and resources are available for Arkansans. We are taking every measure to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Arkansas, but the best way to protect yourself from contracting any virus is by practicing healthy habits, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, and staying close to home if you are not feeling well.”

The Arkansas Department of Health has offered a list of general precautions to protect from COVID-19 infection, including:

-Avoiding close contact with sick people

-Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands

-Staying home when you are sick

-Covering all coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands

-Coughing and sneezing into your elbow instead of on your hand

-Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces with a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The ADH is also encouraging schools and businesses to make plans for if an outbreak should occur General preparations the ADH recommends for organizations include:

-Making sure all sick employees or students stay home until they no longer have symptoms. Provide ways to work remotely or have policies in place to allow employees to miss days. Sick family members should stay home from work or school.

-Separating sick employees, students, or family members with respiratory symptoms like excessive coughing and sneezing from others, while encouraging them to cover their mouths while coughing and sneezing.

-Performing routine environmental cleaning.

-Considering refraining from shaking hands.

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