Governor touts lower case count as state's death toll reaches 619

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

By Scott Loftis

Gov. Asa Hutchinson continued to express optimism early this week about the number of COVID-19 infections in Arkansas, even as the state’s death toll from the virus climbed above 600.

Hutchinson said 412 Arkansans tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours before his news conference Monday in Little Rock. Four Arkansas residents died from COVID-19 during that time span, he said, increasing the state’s total death count to 603.

Speaking Tuesday in Blytheville, Hutchinson announced an additional 410 newly confirmed cases and 16 additional deaths.

Over an eight-day span beginning Aug. 11, the state had its two lowest daily totals of new cases since July 7. In that eight-day span, the state announced a total of 4,710 new cases — an average of 588.75 per day. Over the previous eight-day period, from Aug. 3-Aug. 10, the state had 6,318 newly confirmed cases for an average of 789.75 per day.

“Clearly we have a downward trend over the last week to 10 days,” Hutchinson said Monday. “I’m not necessarily saying that is going to continue, because that all depends on individual behavior of people in Arkansas — compliance with the mask mandate, making sure you social distance, making sure that you don’t get into large gatherings without being protected or protecting others. So I am hopeful that it will be a consistent downward trend, but I’m not in a predictive mode when it comes to the coronavirus.”

Only three counties — Sebastian (44), Pulaski (40) and Washington (29) — had more than 20 new cases Tuesday, Hutchinson said.

The Arkansas Department of Health website indicated Carroll County had 395 cases as of Tuesday morning, with 42 active positive cases, 346 cases designated as recovered and seven deaths.

“We’re still going down from our peak,” Hutchinson said Monday. “We need to continue to go down but we’re making some progress there.”

The new cases announced Tuesday brought the state’s cumulative total to 53,487 after the state Department of Health revised that number over the weekend to eliminate cases that it said involved out-of-state residents.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the ADH’s medical director of immunizations, said the state had 5,898 active cases Tuesday — 443 fewer than Monday.

“It’s on that downward trend,” Hutchinson said Monday of the active case count. “There’s always some ups and downs, but it’s on a downward trend.”

The governor said the state’s positivity rate is hovering around 10 percent.

“We’re right on the margins now, but we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

Hutchinson and state health secretary Dr. Jose Romero met Monday with Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“We had a very robust discussion with Dr. Birx about the status of tests and positivity in our state,” Romero said. “One of the things that Dr. Birx pointed out was that transmission now appears to be mostly in the area of community and familial. That is that we’re having get-togethers with families in our back yards. We’re having get-togethers with our neighborhoods. Being outside and getting together doesn’t mean that you’re not going to spread the virus. So, when you get more than 10 people together, there is certainly a risk to do that. We urge caution in doing so. We urge avoiding that if possible. If you do decide to do that, I think a mask would be prudent.”

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