Coronavirus in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson announces largest single-day increase of cases


LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that the state saw the largest single-day increase of coronavirus cases.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 5,458 total cases of the virus and 110 deaths in the state, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

That’s an increase of 455 cases.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Department of Health, said that’s almost 10 times as many as a lower day in past weeks.

According to Dr. Smith, 229 are from correctional facilities and are cases that were already known about but weren’t entered into the system yet because they were from different testing sites. Dr. Smith said the correctional facilities additional cases are from last week.

Dr. Smith said 226 of the new cases were from the community, and this is a concern.

Dr. Smith said this is not a biological phenomenon, and we don’t go from 80 to 226 overnight because of any new infections. Smith said it doesn’t spread that fast. Dr. Smith said it’s a result of greater testing.

Dr. Smith says the state has increased numbers and the scope of testing to include people who are asymptomatic and tests are more available.

Dr. Smith said there is now testing at 79 local health units.

Dr. Smith said the cases are not all coming from one place, but are spread out to many parts of the states.

Thirty-three of the cases is in Yell County, which the governor said is probably related to a poultry plant outbreak.

According to Dr. Smith, 27 cases are from Benton County, 26 are from Washington County, 17 are from Craighead County, 17 are from Crittenden County, 13 are in Pulaski County, 13 are in Pope County and 10 are from Union County.

Dr. Smith said there are cases in many parts of the state and probably cases that were not recognized.

Dr. Smith said he’s glad they are identifying the cases so they can break up those chains of transmission.

Dr. Smith said local health units will continue to offer daily testing as well as targeted testing.

The state’s coronavirus death toll increased by three, the governor announced Thursday.

Dr. Smith said of the total number of cases, 1,033 are active. Of the active cases, 543 are in correctional facilities, 94 are in nursing homes and 796 are in communities.

Eighty-six people are in the hospital due to the coronavirus in Arkansas, according to Governor Hutchinson. This is an increase of seven between Wednesday and Thursday.

Fourteen people are on ventilators due to the virus, according to Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith said 3,915 people have recovered, which is an increase of 63 from Wednesday.

The governor said in the last 24 hours, 2,616 tests were completed.

The governor said the positivity rate for the tests was 4.4%, which is well below the national standard that has been set.

The governor said the spike of cases Thursday is a concern, and is reflective of increased testing. The governor said contact tracing needs to be done to understand if this is a new outbreak, or just a reflection of increased testing.

The governor announced the Crater of Diamonds State Park will open Friday. The governor said this is important to the economy of southwest Arkansas and is a popular destination. There will be restrictions of 500 visitors a day, tickets purchased online and social distancing enforced.

The governor also announced Thursday some community and school team sports can resume with restrictions starting June 1.

This pertains to kindergarten through twelfth grade.

It does not include intercollegiate sports. The governor said that will be a separate conversation.

Tickets must be purchased online.

Team practice and competition are prohibited for close-contact sports like basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, soccer and martial arts. The governor said close-contact sports will be revisited.

Individual practice with a player’s own equipment is permitted.

Conditioning and training is okay with a limited group size and distancing.

Cheerleading and dance may practice under gym directive restrictions.

Practice and competition is allowed for limited-contact team sports like baseball, softball, track, gymnastics and swimming.

State officials suggest physical distancing whenever possible.

Officials say an athlete should use their own equipment. Shared equipment must be disinfected.

Participation is discouraged if a person is 65 years or older or has any health issues.

Officials say to physical distance except during active sports activity.

Athletes, coaches and staff should be asked about fever, symptoms and exposure.

Officials say coaches and staff should have their temperature checked.

Face coverings are required for anyone 10 years or older.

Athletes can remove their face covering while actively participating in their sport.

Coaches and staff must wear masks at all times.

Showers are prohibited and locker rooms should only be used for storage, according to officials.

Equipment and facilities should frequently be sanitized.

Avoid huddles, high fives or any other non-sport related contact.

State officials say the directive for gyms applies to training facilities.

Directive for venues and dining apply to the athletic event facilities, officials say.

The governor also said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website is secure and is operational as of Wednesday.

The governor said as of noon Thursday, over 15,000 claimants were emailed that they can get their weekly claims.

According to the governor, 5,854 have entered their weekly claims and 3,975 people had payments sent out Wednesday night. The money could be in the claimant’s account Thursday night or Friday morning.

The governor said 1,879 people had requested debit cards and they will be sent out soon.

Dr. Smith said a concern during a pandemic is a decrease in blood donation and people need blood every day. Smith said this is personal for him because his mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital and she needed a blood transfusion. Smith wanted to remind people to go and donate.

Dr. Smith said his department is also issuing the directive for overnight summer camps.

Dr. Jose Romero said the CDC notified physicians across the country about a multi-system inflammatory of children. According to Romero, it follows a COVID-19 infection. Symptoms are having a fever for longer than a day, inflammation in the body, multiple organs involved- including the brain, heart, gastrointestinal and kidneys. According to Dr. Romero, most of the children have had the virus or antibodies. There have been 200 cases so far. Romero said the syndrome is relatively new and is given the same treatment as Kawasaki disease. Romero said deaths have been rare.

Steaurt Walton, the chair of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force said they are in the process of producing an interim report. Walton said it’s going to be a summary of where we’ve been, the next steps for the task force.

Crystal Bridges is taking tentative and early steps to reopen. Walton said it will be cautious and slow. Walton said he’s excited it will begin to reopen and it’s an encouraging sign.

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