Dr. Nate Smith
Secretary of Health
Arkansas Department of Health

Throughout March and April, the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of our minds. Businesses shut down or limited services. We isolated ourselves from each other in order to protect us and the ones we love. People lost their jobs, unsure of when they will be able to return. This has been a season riddled with fear and uncertainty.


But there have also been good stories that have come from this, ones filled with charity and selflessness; examples of strength to endure and compassion for our neighbors. These are the stories we’ve brought before you this month in this special section on Arkansas’ experience with the coronavirus.


The COVID-19 pandemic we are now facing is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. The past few weeks have demanded many sacrifices from each of us. For some, the sacrifice has been long hours under stressful conditions. For others, it has been the heavy burden of concern for family members, friends and colleagues. We can weather this together by following recommendations to protect ourselves and others; taking action if we show symptoms of COVID-19; and keeping up-to-date on what is happening in our communities.


COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The virus causing COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. The new virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who have physical contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes (within about 6 feet). Currently, there is not a vaccine available to prevent COVID-19, and there is not a specific treatment for COVID-19. There is also no antibiotic effective in preventing or treating COVID-19, because it is caused by a virus.


To protect yourself, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) recommends you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet between you and others; and stay home as much as possible. You should also follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to wear a mask when in public and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. The ADH is also working closely with the governor’s office to monitor all data and information about the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas, and to develop new guidelines and directives based on local circumstances and keeping the best interests of our citizens in mind.


If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, stay home even if you are mildly ill and contact your physician by phone for guidance. Older patients and people who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their physician early, even those who are mildly ill. Your physician will decide if testing is necessary based on your symptoms and known exposures. Depending on travel history or exposure to people with confirmed COVID-19, you may be instructed to home quarantine for 14 days. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure and range from mild to severe illness. The disease may worsen in the second week after infection. Warning signs that you may need medical attention immediately include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or unable to wake up and bluish lips or face.


It is important to keep up to date on what is happening in Arkansas and elsewhere. The ADH updates its website (www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus) daily with the current number of cases as well as updated resources and guidance. You can stay up to date with COVID-19 related information from other state agencies at www.govstatus.egov.com/ar-covid-19.


If you have a question, contact the ADH Coronavirus Call Center at (800) 803-7847 or email ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov. You can find testing and screening information at www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-guidance-for-getting-tested.