Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily coronavirus briefing brought news of a smaller rise in new COVID-19 cases compared with recent days, but he acknowledged a growing concern nationwide about people ignoring social distancing rules.

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The daily coronavirus count

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas rose by 439 during the last 24 hours after successive days running from 500 to near 700 The total for the state so far rose from 19,818 to 20,257. Deaths rose by one, to 265. Hospitalizations rose by seven to 300.

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The county leaders: Washington, 92; Pulaski, 56; Benton, 48, and Sevier, 31.  There are 5,926 active cases. Health Director Nate Smith said the rise in Central Arkansas was a concern but they hadn’t yet identified specific sources of the rise.

Hutchinson emphasized figures today showing Arkansas was steadily improving its testing frequency. “It’s a good success story,” he said.

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Hutchinson said he talked with governors and Mike Pence in a conference call this morning. One topic was the expansion of testing. Another was behavior. Compliance with social distancing is a growing concern in the last couple of weeks, he said. (No kidding. See Arkansas.)

The guidelines are common sense, the governor said. Customers in businesses need to do the right thing, the governor said. He DID NOT say he would mandate any further rules or mask-wearing. But he observed that some states have cracked down as a result of people ignoring recommendations.

He said the state would issue “words of encouragement” about being safe over the July 4 holiday. He said the state was working hard to reduce “complacency” about the transmission of the disease.

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He acknowledged the rise of social media posts of crowds of people getting close together without wearing masks. “We want to avoid that and continue to remind people to do the responsible thing,” Hutchinson said.

Other topics

Would Hutchinson sign legislation moving Confederate monuments from the Capitol grounds? He indicated on ABC yesterday that it was time to talk about moving the statues to a place more appropriate for discussing their history. He dodged a direct answer to the question today. He said he had priorities in legislation and his first priority was hate crime legislation. He said others might have other priorities.  “The monuments are a legislative decision,” said. “There’s a lot of discussion that has to go into that. I stated my opinion on it.” And he would say no more.

What numbers would guide the governor on moving forward to Phase 3 of reopening? The answer was indefinite. A number of factors will enter in, “But I’ll say this we have a further way to go.” The current topic among state officials isn’t about lifting restrictions, but “how can we get these cases down.”