Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas Secretary of Health, will leave Arkansas on August 28 to take a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday at his Covid-19 news conference.
Dr. Jose Romero, the chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health and chief of the pediatric infectious disease section at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, will serve as interim Secretary of Health.
Hutchinson said Smith has guided and informed every decision he has made since March 11 when he declared Covid-19 a health emergency in Arkansas. “Secretary Smith’s selection to serve at the national level affirms what we already knew, that with him at the helm, we were in good hands,” Hutchinson said. “To say that I am saddened doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, but I am thrilled that our nation now will have the benefit of his expertise, wisdom, and compassion.
Smith said he is honored to take his new role at the Centers for Disease Control, but it isn’t easy to leave the Arkansas Department of Health or the the state of Arkansas.
“I have learned an incredible amount from my colleagues here,” Dr. Smith said. “I am honored to take this role at CDC, but it is not easy to leave ADH or this wonderful state. It has been a privilege to serve as Secretary of Health. I plan to take everything I’ve learned through my experiences here to my role at CDC.”
Tuesday’s announcement of Smith’s departure comes as the state’s total of confirmed cases of Covid-19 reaches 6,180, an increase of 151 since Monday, and 4,322 have recovered from the virus. The number of deaths in Arkansas attributed to the virus increased from 117 on Monday to 119 on Tuesday and eight more patients have been hospitalized since Monday, increasing the total from 99 to 107.
Hutchinson said the state has conducted 61,000 tests for Covid-19, exceeding his goal of 60,000 for the month. In one day, 2,984 tests were conducted with a 3.3 percent positivity rate, which he said is well below the national standard.