State’s cases top 10,000, with 16 active in county
By Scott Loftis
Bolstered by a continuing spike in Northwest Arkansas, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state topped 10,000 Tuesday.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a news conference Tuesday that 10,080 Arkansans have now tested positive for the virus, and 161 have died. Those totals include 340 new cases and six deaths announced Tuesday. The total number of cases represents a 28.9 percent increase from the previous Tuesday, June 2, when there were 7,818 confirmed cases. Twenty-five Arkansans died of COVID-19 over the same seven-day span.
Of the 340 new cases announced Tuesday, 88 were in Washington County and 79 were in Benton County. As of Wednesday morning, Carroll County had 40 confirmed cases — an increase of 15 since Monday, June 1. Carroll County’s total includes 16 active cases, 23 recoveries and one death.
“The regions of the state are all at different stages of the epidemic, and their trend lines are different,” Hutchinson said Monday. “Second, the future spread is not predictable. Just like one month ago, we were looking at Benton and Washington County, which had very, very few cases, and now they’ve escalated.”
Arkansas was among seven states that never issued stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, although Hutchinson did close the state’s public schools in March and later instituted other restrictions including prohibiting dine-in restaurant service and severely limiting lodging rentals to out-of-state visitors. The state began gradually easing some of those restrictions on May 4, when there were 3,458 confirmed cases in Arkansas. Although the case count has nearly tripled in the five weeks since then, Hutchinson reiterated his opinion Monday that the increase isn’t connected to the easing of restrictions.
“The data shows that the cases are not related to the lifting of restrictions,” he said. “That’s an important fact we continue to monitor.”
Hutchinson said Tuesday he would make an announcement Wednesday on the state’s plans to further ease restrictions.
State health secretary Nate Smith said 173 Arkansans were hospitalized because of the virus Tuesday, an increase of two in the previous 24 hours and the highest figure since the pandemic began. Smith said 44 of those individuals were on ventilators.
The state has 3,044 active cases, according to Smith, with 6,875 confirmed cases now listed as recovered.
Arkansas has seen a sharp increase in testing, with Hutchinson setting a goal of 120,000 tests in June. More than 150,000 Arkansas residents have tested negative for the virus.
“Our increased testing helps us to shine the flashlight on where the challenges are that we face in the new cases and how we address those,” the governor said Monday.
Hutchinson stressed that Arkansans should continue to be cautious but said Arkansas’ economic recovery from the pandemic is essential.
“We do know that self-discipline and social discipline is a constant that we need to continue to exercise in the state of Arkansas, regardless of whether the cases go up or the cases go down, and that is true until we get a vaccine,” the governor said. “And then finally, the economy must keep moving, and generating, and creating jobs, and providing people the opportunity to make a living and support their business.”