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River Valley officials give coronavirus update

Doctors say around a dozen people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the River Valley.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Over the last two weeks, leaders in the River Valley have been trying to limit the spread of COVID-19. They say they are preparing in case there is a surge in the virus.

Through the joint hotline, Mercy and Baptist Health Hospitals have screened more than 3,000 people, 260 of which have been tested at the Ben Geren testing center.

Doctors say around a dozen people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the River Valley.

The majority of those have not required hospitalization. Doctors say the two that did are not on ventilators and are not in the ICU.

“I think every hospital is initiating its own disaster preparedness plan that incorporates expanding its capacity to its maximum,” said Dr. Lee Johnson, an ER physician.

Dr. Johnson says donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) have helped put supplies in good standing, which includes the number of ventilators.

“Presently, yes we have enough. For a scenario where we are overwhelmed sure there’s a scenario," Dr. Johnson said. "We going to try to get the state to get as many ventilators as they can.”

On the education front, schools have served more than 22,000 meals to students in need. 

Cable provider Cox is giving students 60 days of free internet access.

If students were in "good standing" for graduation by March 13, they are in "good standing" for the rest of the school year.

“We reached out to seniors, especially those that were struggling before this, to help them get across the finish line,” said Doug Brubaker, Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent.

While hotels have been hit hard by the pandemic, people are still encouraged to support local restaurants by ordering take out or delivery.

“I would recommend that any company that’s experiencing financial distress over this virus please, apply for the PPP. It’s federal funds that are there,” said Tim Allen from the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce.

The Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce says the economy is strong and companies are hiring. 

Mayor George McGill says COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government will be determined by Census numbers. He’s encouraging everyone to participate in the 2020 Census.

The Chamber of Commerce says for those trying to apply for unemployment insurance, the State's Department of Commerce has opened a new hotline for those who have questions. The hotline number is 844-908-2178.

From Arkansas.gov website:

Q: How do I file for a claim unemployment benefits?

A: There are a multitude of ways to file for unemployment benefits:

1. Visit www.ezarc.adws.arkansas.gov and apply online.

2. Call 1-855-225-4440.

3. Effective Monday, March 23, 2020, a Temporary Claims Processing Hotline will be available for affected

workers who require assistance in filing their unemployment claims. 

The Temporary Claims Processing Hotline can be reached at 1-844-908-2178 or 501-534-6304.

4. While not recommended, you may visit your nearest Arkansas Workforce Center office.

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