As statewide hospitalizations continue to set new daily records, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson hinted at the possibility of increased safety regulations on Monday.
The state’s cumulative COVID-19 case count rose by 572 to 28,939. Of those, 6,510 cases are considered active and 22,106 are categorized as recovered.
Hospitalizations are up 19 to 439 – another all-time high – and patients on a ventilator increased by seven to 89, Hutchinson said. Two more Arkansans have died from the illness, bringing the toll to 323.
Hutchinson said while hospitalizations do continue to increase, there are still no bed capacity issues in any of the state’s five regions.
Although Monday’s case count is well below the 1,061 new cases reported on Saturday, Hutchinson said it’s nothing to be happy about.
“Let me tell you that is way too high,” he said. “We have to do more to get those cases well below that.”
The governor began the press briefing on Monday by saying that “masks are the one tool that we have to reduce the spread of the virus,” and when later pressed about a mask mandate, he hinted at the possibility of increased regulations.
“As you look at the future, if our cases stay flat or go down, then we won’t have to utilize other tools,” said Hutchinson. “But if you see our cases go up, you’ll see us scrambling for new tools like they have in other states and there are limited numbers that we can grab.”
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said he wanted to address a rumor that masks aren’t effective at keeping the public safe from COVID-19.
He said people appear to be misinterpreting a label that appears on some boxes of surgical masks. The label states that the product will not provide protections against COVID-19.
Smith said while it’s true that some masks – such as the N95 respirator – are more effective at providing protection for the wearer, most masks – including homemade cloth coverings – are very effective at “source control” which means they can stop viral particles from escaping the wearer’s mouth and nose.
“They work very well for that,” he said. “So if we can get everyone to wear a mask, then we’re all protected.”
Graphs for Monday
Hospitalizations by region