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AR Creates Economic Recovery Task Force as Virus Spread Remains Uncertain

Arkansas is one of a few states that have not implemented a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
Arkansas is one of a few states that have not implemented a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
April 20, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced a new Economic Recovery Task Force to help Arkansas communities bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, and says some statewide COVID-19 restrictions potentially could be lifted by early May.

Across the country, states are grappling with how to jumpstart their economies without triggering a spike in new infections. Scientists say striking that balance will be challenging.

University of Florida biostatistics professor Ira Longini said a critical factor in restarting the economy will be how long immunity to the new coronavirus lasts.

"Ordinary coronavirus infections you do not get lasting immunity. You can be infected over and over," Longini said. "And we really don't know, for this novel coronavirus, if that's also true. There is some anecdotal evidence already of re-infections, but we really don't know."

So far, nearly 1,800 people in Arkansas have tested positive for COVID-19, and 37 people have died. The task force has said its goals will be to restore the economy while protecting those at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications, maintaining hospital capacity and preventing a resurgence of the disease.

Longini said the best tool for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is likely a few years away.

"The most effective way to do that would be a vaccine," he said, "which are also coming slower than the therapeutics, but will be going into randomized trials as soon as possible."

Researchers at Harvard recently published a modeling study showing that a wintertime outbreak of COVID-19 is likely after the first pandemic wave. The authors noted that to avoid overwhelming the health care system during these flare-ups, intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR