Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily coronavirus update included a new peak on the number hospitalized and he said he wasn’t ready to announce a regional approach to easing of state guidelines on business operations.
He’d indicated last week he might have an announcement this week. Today, he was more cautious.
He said the regions of the state are different and their trend lines are different. But he said the future spread of the coronavirus is “not predictable.” He said he doesn’t believe the rise in cases being experienced is related to past easing of restrictions. But he said increased testing is important. He said self-discipline and social-discipline still must be practiced. And he emphasized again that the economy must keep moving. He said these factors will influence future decisions on easing restrictions.
But nothing today. “We’re leaving the options open,” he said. The weekend numbers clearly were a disincentive. He said he’d thought earlier the state was on a decline on the whole, but circumstances changed. The options he considered Friday “had some weaknesses.” He said, “What might be a safe region today might not be tomorrow.”
The daily COVID-19 count
The state reported 314 new cases today, increasing yesterday’s total of 9,426 to 9,740. Deaths rose by one, to 155. Hospitalizations increased by 26 to 171, a record so far. The rise in cases followed increases Saturday of 450 and Sunday of 325.
4,131 tests were done over the last 24 hours.
The growth in new cases continued in Washington County (86) and Benton County (41). The governor said 41 of the cases in Washington County were clustered in 15 households. He also said the average age of those infected was fairly young, perhaps a hopeful sign that they’ll overcome the illness more easily.
Health Director Nate Smith said only 2 percent of new cases had visited a restaurant in the last 14 days; 1 percent to a barbershop; 1 percent to a church, and less than 1 percent to a gym or hotel.
He said the growth in hospitalizations was “concerning,” but he said the state was not near its capacity. He said that, with the growth in cases, it wasn’t surprising hospitalizations would grow. He said the same could be expected of deaths, a “lagging indicator.”
The governor opened remarks with news on the demonstration front. He confirmed the announcement earlier that he was deactivating National Guard he’d called up in support of State Police and local police.
He said the unified command structure created by his executive order remains in place, though the number of State Police dedicated to the job will be reduced. He said the Little Rock police will remain at work protecting property and demonstrators. The governor praised local demonstrators, but he said some “outliers” who’d come in to cause trouble had been “discouraged and deterred.”
He also said he’d been meeting with protest leaders and planned to deliver at 11 a.m. Tuesday an executive order he’d promised them. He gave no details, but he said it would deal with “police training, certification and standards.”
Steuart Walton, the billionaire Walmart heir appointed by Hutchinson to lead a recovery “task force,” said Arkansas is doing better than some neighboring states in economic recovery. He said his group’s website is now available in Spanish. He said the group was trying to encourage businesses to get people to follow guidelines on wearing masks (they could be more effective than a vaccine in preventing contraction of the disease, he said) and following other social distancing guidelines. He lauded the governor’s targeted approach to balancing health and economic concerns.
The Q&A session didn’t cover much new ground, with some discussion, but little enlightenment on whether the mass demonstrations were a potential breeding ground for virus cases or whether any new cases had been reported as a result.