Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily coronavirus briefing continued more than two weeks of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, as measured by a seven-day rolling average.
The coronavirus count
The governor reported 163 new cases since midday yesterday (only three in prisons) for a total to date of 5,775. Hospitalizations increased by 5, to 86. Two more deaths raised the total to 115 in Arkansas.
Health Director Nate Smith said there were now 1,564 active cases in the state. Of those, 967, or almost two-thirds, were in the community, with 509 in prisons and 88 in nursing homes.
Benton and Washington County led the new cases, with 23 and 20 respectively. Smith said there were family clusters in Rogers and a cluster of cases in Springdale, but he couldn’t be more specific on where they arose.
The seven-day rolling average for cases in Arkansas has been moving upward since May 5, more than two weeks ago. Hutchinson acknowledged the state is experiencing a “second peak” 30 days after the first.
He downplayed the need for alarm with this five-point list:
- A record level of testing (3,195 in the last 24 hours). This improves the “early warning” system of finding cases and dealing with them.
- The hospitalization rate remains low. “We’re in good shape now and will be in the future,” he said. If hospitalizations don’t go up while cases increase, it indicates people aren’t very ill.
- The state’s positive test rate is low. With a national standard of 10 percent positivity as a danger point, the state rate has been about 5 percent. It was 3.5 percent in the last 24 hours.
- On a per-capita basis, Arkansas has one of the lowest death rates in the country.
- Discipline in personal safety habits remains important. “We need to not be casual,” he said. He said he’d been told anecdotally that a number of cases had come out of a high school swim party in Northeast Arkansas. There’s a lesson there. He said people should, for example, enjoy the holiday, “But let’s be safe and let’s be disciplined at the same time.”
Pandemic unemployment assistance payments
At noon today, the governor said, 12,930 claimants had been approved and payments made by direct deposit or debit card. This is the federally paid benefits for self-employed and other independent contractors.
He announced the formation of a technical advisory board, chaired by Dr. Austin Porter III of the Health Department, that could evaluate technological advances that could be useful in coping with the virus.