Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor, Secretary of Health give details on rise of cases over the weekend

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith gave details about the rise in coronavirus cases over the weekend.

As of Monday afternoon, there are 28,939 total COVID-19 cases and 323 deaths in the state, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson. This is an increase of 572 cases and two deaths from Sunday.

Dr. Smith said three of the cases were in correctional facilities.

According to Dr. Smith, there are 6,510 active cases. Of the active cases, 127 are in nursing homes, 958 are in correctional facilities and 5,425 are in the community.

Governor Hutchinson said the counties with the most new cases are Pulaski County (77), Washington County (53), Sebastian County (40), Pope County (25), Benton County (23), Mississippi County (23), Crittenden County (22), Craighead County (20) and Jefferson County (20). All other counties had fewer than 20 new cases.

According to state officials, there are currently 439 people in an Arkansas hospital due to COVID-19, an increase of 19 from Sunday. Dr. Smith noted there are nine residents in the Arkansas State Hospital who have tested positive.

Dr. Smith said 89 are on a ventilator due to the virus, which is an increase in seven from Sunday.

State officials say 5,254 tests were completed Sunday. Governor Hutchinson said the overall cumulative positivity rate is 7.5%.

On Saturday, the state saw 1,061 new cases. This was the biggest one-day jump in cases in Arkansas.

Governor Hutchinson said one-third of Saturday’s cases came from Hot Spring County.

On Sunday, the state saw 503 new cases.

Governor Hutchinson tweeted the following on Saturday:

Dr. Nate Smith said a large portion of the weekend cases were from the Ouachita Unit in Malvern. According to Dr. Smith, there have been over 500 positive tests over the last four days.

According to state officials, the highest concentration of cases from July 11- 13 came from counties which are population centers: Washington County (211), Pulaski County (205), Benton County (133) and Sebastian County (127).

Governor Hutchinson also said Monday former Governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor is in the hospital after he and his wife, Barbara, tested positive for the coronavirus. Barbara Pryor is at home, according to Governor Hutchinson.

Gov. Hutchinson said state officials want to impress upon Arkansans that the mask will help.

Governor Hutchinson also said all of Arkansas should sense the urgency to do what we can to lower the spread of the virus.

Dr. Smith also spoke about hearing that masks don’t work.

“A hammer doesn’t work as a screwdriver, but it works pretty well as a hammer,” Smith said while talking about masks.

Smith said if people wear masks, they are keeping their respiratory secretions to themselves. Smith said while the cloth mask will not protect you from COVID-19, more recent evidence shows it helps somewhat. Smith said it is relatively safe if everyone in a building is wearing masks, but there is a risk if there are even a couple of people not wearing masks. Smith said you can’t depend on the mask to protect you if others aren’t wearing masks.

When asked about how to change people’s behavior and wear masks, Governor Hutchinson said there are two ways- by mandate or by education. Governor Hutchinson gave an example of education as Benton County, which does not currently have a mandate but is seeing a decrease by educating. Gov. Hutchinson also noted Little Rock has a mandate, but the number of cases is still rising in Pulaski County. Governor Hutchinson said he is continuing to look at both mandates and education. Hutchinson said if there is a rise of cases, “you will see us scrambling for new tools” to stop the spread.

State officials say if schools have COVID-19 cases, the Arkansas Department of Health will handle the contact tracing.

State officials say UAMS’ Intensive Care Unit is at capacity, but most ICU’s usually run at capacity because of things like scheduled surgeries. State officials say it can be adjusted if needed and the general hospital capacity is fine.

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