The number of known positive COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continues to spike, according to data presented by Gov. Asa Hutchinson during his press briefing on Friday.
Hutchinson said 731 new cases have been identified since yesterday, the largest single-day increase in new cases since the pandemic began.
Of the new cases announced today, 311 came from Northwest Arkansas, with Washington County once again leading the state with 220 cases and Benton County second with 91 new cases.
Hutchinson said 207 of the new cases came from correctional facilities, with 524 cases identified in the general community.
The overall total of cases in Arkansas is now at 11,547, with 3,764 cases considered active.
Hospitalizations are also at a new high, up 16 since yesterday for a total of 201, and deaths were up five bringing the toll to 176.
The governor said 5,591 tests have been completed, keeping the state on pace for its goal of 120,000 tests during the month of June.
Jose Romero, filling in for Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith, said 844 health care workers have been infected with the virus, up 12 from yesterday. He said 7,607 patients are considered to have recovered.
As far as demographics, 51.5% of those who have tested positive in the state are white/caucasion, Romero said. Nearly 31% were African-American, Latinos comprised 21.2%, and Marshallese made up 6.2% of cases.
Romero also said 1,353 cases have come from businesses related to poultry production.
Hutchinson concluded his initial remarks by saying he expects the number of cases in the state to continue to increase, especially in the Northwest Arkansas area.
In response to a question about whether the new high in cases today has led to any second thoughts about moving to Phase 2 reopening plans next week, Hutchinson said no.
“There continues to be no indication of a connection between the increase in cases and the lifting of restrictions,” he said. “That is what we continue to watch, and that is what helps guide our decision.”
The governor was also asked about hospital capacity in Northwest Arkansas, as numbers continue to rise in that area.
“Within the last couple days, I have spoken to multiple hospital administrators there and (we are) monitoring that very carefully as to their capacity” he said. “They do have surge plans in the event that their normal operating capacity gets a concern, they do have a capability to expand that for additional COVID patients as needed.
“That is something we are watching very carefully, and we are making contingency plans in the even that we do have a capacity issue in terms of COVID patients,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said Tyson Foods announced this week that of 1,100 team members tested this week at their Berry Street plant facility in Springdale, 199 tested positive.
Of those, he said, only one case was symptomatic at the time of testing.
“Now think about where those 198 were the day before, or the day before, in the community, with family, buying groceries,” he said. “There are many out there that are not showing any symptoms, they are not aware that they are positive, and yet they are capable of spreading the virus,”
Hutchinson provided reminders about the importance of social distancing, staying at least six feet apart, washing hands for 20 seconds, and wearing masks as ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
The governor said he’s asked 20 members of the National Guard to assist with contact tracing efforts in the state.
Hutchinson also said the state has issued an RFQ to hire additional contact tracers in the state.