Gov. Asa Hutchinson provided an update on the new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas at his daily press conference held in Jonesboro on Wednesday.
Cases increased by 97 since yesterday’s press conference, Hutchinson said, bringing the total cumulative number of cases to 6,277.
Hospitalizations increased by one to 108, and the death toll increased by one to 120 total deaths in the state from the illness.
Hutchinson said testing was up, with over 4,000 new tests since yesterday, and the positivity rate of those tests was down to 1.9%.
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith added some detail to the case update. Smith said there are a total of 1733 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 68 in nursing homes, 466 in correctional facilities, and 1,199 are in the community.
Smith said the number of hospitalized in the state at 108 is near the all time high of 109. The number of those on a respirator also increased, up 4 to 22 individuals. A total of 4,424 patients have recovered from the virus.
A total of 575 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, Smith said, though he said 447 of those have recovered.
The governor emphasized one slide during his presentation highlighting the growth rate of cases broken down by age group to point out the growing number of new cases identified among some younger groups in the population.
In the last week, cases among those aged 0-17 increased by over 46%, cases among those 18-24 increased by just over 32%, and the age group between 25-44 increased by 26%. The two older groups, including those aged 45-64 and 65 and older are increasing at slower rates (22% and 15.8%) statewide.
“The growth rate from 0-17 that believes they are totally invincible from the virus, and believes they are invincible from any harm in life, and that is just typical of that age group, the cases grew from 190 on May 17 to 278, that’s a 46% increase,” he said. “So that’s just something to remind us all that the virus affects all age groups.”
Hutchinson said the state has met its goal of over 60,000 tests during the month of May, already surpassing 66,000 tests with a few days left in the month to increase that number.
Smith said that the state has seen some occupational cluster trends developing in the state, in particular around the poultry industry. A total of 301 cases in the state, including 220 that are currently active, are associated with the poultry industry.
Smith also said that in terms of where the new cases are coming from, he has not seen a correlation with the reopening of businesses such as barber shops, restaurants, and others that have seen loosened restrictions recently.
“Of our active cases, the percentage that reported going to a restaurant in the last 14 days are less than 1%, it’s. 8%,” Smith said. Those who have reported going to a barber shop are also 1%, those who have reported going to a church service are.07%, daycares at.05%, and gyp at .02, hotel at .03%. We are seeing an upswing in cases, but these don’t seem to be associated with these newly opened businesses, but we’ll continue to keep a close eye on that.”
Smith said of the current active cases, 20% come from the Latino population, which is also a current concern.
With the November election fast approaching and COVID-19 lingering, the governor was asked Wednesday about how he plans to guarantee a safe election for Arkansans in the fall.
Hutchinson said he plans to monitor the situation until about August before making a decision on measures the state will take to maintain a safe election.
“All the voters that look at November should be assured that we are going to work very had to make sure that whatever the condition of the virus is at that time, that we are going to have an election, and we are going to do everything we can to have it in a safe fashion for all the voters but also for the poll workers,” he said. “As to what that plan will be, I’ve got probably until August, because August is the time that the county clerks have to start printing ballots and getting ready for the fall election.”