State's cases approach 35,000 as hospitalizations hit new high
By Scott Loftis
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Arkansas residents continued to rise sharply Tuesday, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that 728 new cases were confirmed in the previous 24 hours.
Hospitalizations because of COVID-19 increased by 17 from the previous day to 488, the state’s highest hospitalization count since the pandemic began in March. Hutchinson announced the deaths of 11 Arkansans from the virus, but said only five of those had occurred in the previous 24 hours. The other six occurred earlier but were reported late, Hutchinson said. A total of 374 Arkansans have now died from the virus.
Tuesday marked the 14th consecutive day of more than 500 new cases in Arkansas. The state has had a total of 13,888 new confirmed cases in July — an average of 661.3 per day.
Over a seven-day period starting Wednesday, July 15, the state averaged more than 700 newly confirmed cases per day and its overall case count increased by 16.6 percent, from 29,733 to 34,655. The deaths of 43 Arkansans from the virus were reported over that seven-day span, and hospitalizations increased by 9.7 percent.
Washington County had 62 newly confirmed cases Tuesday — the second-highest total for any county in the state. Benton County ranked fourth with 45 new cases.
Hutchinson announced Monday that he was activating 10 Arkansas National Guard members to “support case management” at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville for the next 30 days.
“This is a short-term relief effort for the hospital,” Hutchinson said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Arkansas Department of Health reported that Carroll County had a total of 291 confirmed cases, with 66 active positive cases, 219 recovered cases and six deaths. The total number of confirmed cases in the county increased by 61 from a week earlier, while active cases were up by 21.
Carroll County Judge Sam Barr tested positive for the virus last week, his administrative assistant Ronda Griffin announced on Barr’s Facebook page Friday, July 17. The Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville, where Barr’s office is located, was closed at noon that day for deep cleaning.
Griffin said via Facebook on Monday that Barr was “doing great.”
“He will need to be re-tested, and if it comes back negative, he will be good to go!!” Griffin posted on Barr’s Facebook page.
The Carroll County Quorum Court meeting that was scheduled for Monday night will be rescheduled, County Clerk Connie Doss, likely for Monday, July 27.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement last week released data on COVID-19 infections for cities across the state. According to the ACHI report, which was based on data as of July 9, Berryville had 91 cases of COVID-19, equal to 1.64 percent of the city’s population. ACHI reported that Eureka Springs had 12 cases (0.57 percent) while Green Forest had 97 cases (3.53 percent).
In response to a question Monday about the possibility of delaying the start of the 2020-21 school year, Hutchinson said he doesn’t anticipate making that decision.
“Let me emphasize, I do not expect changing the date from where it is now,” said Hutchinson, who earlier this month announced that school would start the week of Aug. 24 rather than Aug. 13. “Nobody can predict the future, but there’s not any discussions about changing the date. … We’ve moved it forward for two weeks. Everybody’s counting on that. That’s where it is. That’s where I expect it to stay.”
Hutchinson addressed the issue of reopening schools again Tuesday, saying he has met with school administrators and teachers associations across the state.
“I try to stay in tune as to where we are, and there’s a very strong commitment that we need school, that we need to go back to school,” Hutchinson said. “I’m glad we made the decision to postpone school for that two-week period to give our school districts more time to get their PPE, to get their teachers ready, to get their facilities ready, to make the adjustments they need to start school on that week of Aug. 24. We remain committed to that.”