Governor Hutchinson held his weekly COVID-19 briefing in Hope today. There was a glitch in the YouTube livestream, but I recovered this much:
The daily COVID-19 count
Arkansas reported 481 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 by PCR tests in the last 24 hours and 199 probable cases from antigen tests for a total rise of 680 cases on the day to a pandemic total of 94,167. Hospitalizations were down 3 to 605 and there were 24 additional deaths, for a total of 1,610.
The top counties with new cases: Pulaski, 51; Benton, 44; Crittenden, 32; Lonoke, 24, and Garland, 22.
He said the positive rate on PCR tests remained above 7 percent, with 5 percent a generally accepted danger point.
He noted the “shifting dynamics” illustrated by positive testing rates, with a rise in rural areas as more highly populated areas have lower positive rates.
He said new cases, deaths, and hospitalization indicate the emergency continues in Arkansas as it does in all 50 states.
As a result of the continuing crisis, he announced he was extending the state emergency orders set to expire this month that allow students to opt for at-home schooling; that exempt business from liability for employees or customers who get sick; allow telemedicine, and allow some electronic signatures for legal documents.
He continued to defend his move to open businesses. He said, for example, that the ABC had found few violations of health rules in inspections of businessers that sell alcohol, only about 3 percent. He encouraged people to shop and spend money with businesses that are safe.
But he said enforcement and messaging would step up to offset the rise in hospitalizations. He wouldn’t specify what additional actions would be taken if the number keeps rising.
He said the state is “way past” the decision to reopen businesses. It won’t be reconsidered. The solution is observing guidelines, he said.
Questioned about Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s frequent appearances in public photos without mask, he said he’d let her “address the specifics.” But he said leaders should follow guidelines and set a good example. When there’s a “public-facing posture,” a good example should be set. CC: Kristi Stahr, Hutchinson administration employee and Pulaski County election commissioner who didn’t wear a mask at meeting last night.