Governor Hutchinson’s daily coronavirus briefing had good and bad news: A relatively small number of new cases in the last 24 hours but a big jump in hospitalizations.
The daily COVID-19 count
The number of cases confirmed in Arkansas rose 259 in the last 24 hours, from 24,253 to 24,512. Deaths rose by nine to 301 total (5 were younger than 65, the governor noted). Hospitalizations rose significantly, by 32, to 369. This was put down to being a lagging indicator, a reflection of the big jump of new cases a few days ago. Active cases dropped. The governor said that the situation today was that hospitals had the capacity to handle demand. “The system is not stressed,” he said.
Leading counties for new cases in the 24-hour period: Pulaski, 57; Benton, 26, and Washington, 14.
Tests completed: 3,366. Health Director Nate Smith said the drop in testing the last two days is part of the explanation for the drop in new cases.
The governor touted a downward trend in long-term unemployment claims — nearly a 20,000 drop from its peak, but still around 100,000. However, new claims have been holding steady for several weeks at a bit below 10,000.
Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said the agency has determined some attempts at fraudulent unemployment claims. He said that could explain a frequent complaint we are hearing about people locked out of their account in the pandemic unemployment assistance program. He said people should call with such problems. But many who complain to us say they’ve can’t get through the phone lines. He said the agency had identified 14,000 potential problems in the pandemic assistance program and another 6,000 in the regular unemployment program. But he said the items that “flagged” the accounts could be innocent mistakes, such as in an account number. In the meanwhile, those payments for 20,000 can’t be processed.
The governor was asked about pressure from the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss to open schools as normal this fall. She said they must be “fully operational.” But she also said “how” that is done should be left to governors, who control secondary education, not the federal government.
“We have our plan in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. It will blend virtual learning with classroom instruction. He said he’d review DeVoss’ comments.