COVID’S GROWTH: Thye map shows the biggest numbers in populous areas, but the growth widely spread across the state.

Governor Hutchinson said the growth of COVID-19 is “way too high” and there’s “total agreement” that wearing masks is “the one tool we have to reduce the spread of the virus.”

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But he announced no additional steps to require the wearing of masks, a guidance that is being broadly ignored around Arkansas. Significantly, his Education secretary,  Johnny Key, who serves as the school board of the Little Rock School District in state control, is not allowing that district to require masks for teachers or students. Other school districts are permitted to do so.

Hutchinson said Arkansans should “sense the urgency” and reduce risks by wearing masks and taking other steps such as social distancing.

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He again touted his approval of local ordinances to “require” masks Several cities have adopted or planned to adopt a model ordinance he has allowed. But the ordinance is toothless. The model ordinance doesn’t allow specific enforcement, either for businesses or customers that refuse to follow the recommendation. Police could make a trespassing arrest of a customer who refused to follow a business directive, but they could oust an obstreperous customer now.

The daily coronavirus count

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COVID-19 cases rose by 572 in the last 24 hours, from 28,367 to 28,939. Deaths rose by two to 323. Hospitalizations up 19 to 439, including nine people in the State Hospital, which is a mental, not medical, facility.

Top counties in new cases in the last 24 hours: Pulaski, 77; Washington, 53; Sebastian, 40; Pope, 25; Benton, 23; Mississippi 23; Crittenden, 22, and Craighead and Jefferson, 20.

Tests completed in the last 24 hours: 5,254.

The governor danced around a variety of questions on masking, always coming back to his long-running theme of encouraging good behavior.

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He said school will open Aug. 24, though the CDC has warned of risks in school reopening. He said schools are the “safest environment” some children have and there are risks in their not going to school.

The governor was asked about restaurants that are refusing to comply with rules on masks. A reporter said complaints had been made, but no enforcement. The governor said rules are being enforced and action taken on well-founded complaints.

He was asked about reports of positive cases on high school football teams. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to have students test positive when schools open. The question is how to address it. “You work through it. You can shift to virtual learning. You could say it’s ok to isolate one student and go to school the next day. You deal with what is inevitable to happen.”

He opened his briefing with a kind word for former Gov. and Sen. David and Barbara Pryor, both COVID-19 positive cases. He said it was an illustration no one is immune.