Dr. Jennifer Dillaha of the state Department of health and the state epidemiologist, who was quoted in the Daily Beast as saying novel coronavirus infections were up because of a “loosening of restrictions” at workplaces, said the online publication misunderstood her.

“I’m not sure what I said,” Dillaha said, because of the number of interviews she’s had because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the way she was quoted “was not what I intended to communicate.”

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There is a correlation in timing — the number of cases of COVID-19 has more than quadrupled since early May, when the state opened up under Phase 1 restrictions for restaurants, barbershops and gyms — Dillaha said. But not cause: “The data doesn’t suggest that transmission is occurring in venues were restrictions were loosened,” she said.

The health department bases its information that visits to venues like restaurants do not correlate with virus spread on information it has gathered in contact tracing, and while contact tracers have not been able to get in touch with every positive case, responses by the number that have been contacted is statistically significant, she said.

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Congregate settings, such as nursing homes, prisons and workplaces, are still the primary venues for transmission, Dillaha said, along with social gatherings “in the population contributing to the spread,” including the Latinx population in Northwest Arkansas and Sevier County. She said the state must continue to mask, wash hands frequently and stay physically distanced for social transmission to slow.