Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said wearing a mask now will increase the chances of being able to enjoy football this fall.
The governor said his office has received a lot of questions about when team sports can resume, and the answer is simple.
“There is a connection between this mask and this football,” he said while holding a mask in his left hand and a football in his right hand. “If we want high school sports this year and beyond into college, we need to concentrate on this mask now.”
Hutchinson said sports are an important part of many Arkansans’ lives – including his own – and his hope is that the spread of COVID-19 is stopped so that sports can safely resume.
“If we wear our masks, then we reduce our cases, we reduce the growth and we stop the spread of the virus,” he said. “That would put us in a better position to have some type of team sports this fall.”
The governor said Wednesday’s numbers look better than in recent days, and that active cases had decreased for the first time in many weeks.
With 420 new cases reported and over 600 recoveries overnight, the active case count is 5,757, which is a decrease of 219 since Tuesday.
Hutchinson said the other good news is that hospitalizations had decreased by 15 to 275 since Tuesday, and that the seven-day rolling average shows trend lines for new cases in 10 of the most populous counties in Arkansas are either flat or pointing downward.
At least 33 of the new cases are from a correctional facility, and there are likely more since Lee County – where the East Arkansas Regional Unit is located – led the state in case reports today with 69 new cases.
Pulaski County reported the second-highest rise in new cases with 69, which indicates that the spread of COVID-19 in Northwest Arkansas could indeed be slowing as suggested by health officials earlier this week.
Washington County reported 48 new cases on Wednesday and Benton County reported 20.
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said seven more Arkansans have died from the virus, bringing the toll to 277, and five more patients were put on a ventilator for a total of 72.
Smith displayed two charts on Wednesday showing the death rate of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. He said 13.6% of all patients who’d been hospitalized in Arkansas as of June 25 had died from the illness.
“This is not a benign condition at all,” said Smith, and noted that for those who required a ventilator, the death rate increased to 46.3%. “This is the sobering reality of what severe COVID-19 can result in.”
Smith said the ventilator numbers tell the biggest story about the chances of survival, but there are also non-respiratory complications that have recently been identified.
He said blood clots are being recognized as a greater problem that can affect people of all ages. Smith said a 20-year-old man in Arkansas who wasn’t exhibiting severe enough respiratory problems to be admitted to a hospital developed a blood clot because of COVID-19 and later died because of it.
Other issues recently identified, Smith said, include complications that can lead to neurological problems and potentially deadly inflammation of the heart.
“I don’t want to be a downer on a day when we have lots of good news, but I did want to make it clear that the reason we’re talking about masks is because this is a serious condition that can change lives as well as end lives.”
More graphs from Wednesday
Various county reports in Arkansas