Friday Briefing

Gov. Asa Hutchinson during his Friday coronavirus briefing said an increase of more than 900 new COVID-19 cases was “too high” and cautioned residents to be mindful and practice social distancing when hosting cookouts and “backyard swim parties.”

Arkansas has 990 new cases of COVID-19, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday in his regular coronavirus press briefing at the state capitol. The state also recorded 17 additional hospitalizations, reaching a new peak at 497.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has had 37,249 cases of COVID-19. Of those cases, 6,326 are currently active in Arkansas communities.

Pulaski and Washington counties recorded the most new cases of coronavirus, while Benton, Newton, Sebastian, Jefferson and Pope counties also recorded elevated case numbers.

Of the 497 hospitalized patients, 109 are on ventilators, an increase of two since Thursday. Eight additional deaths have also been recorded since Thursday for a total of 394, Interim Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said.

After weeks of decreased testing numbers, the state recorded better testing numbers on Friday, having returned 8,015 tests for a cumulative positivity rate of 8 percent in the latest round of tests. The governor said commercial labs returned considerably more tests than in recent days, as did the Arkansas Department of Health’s Public Health Lab.

Romero encouraged Arkansans to wear their masks and follow social distancing guidelines, as the state can drive the curve of the virus downward with cooperation from the public.

“We have an opportunity to change the curve,” Romero said. “This [mask] is going to make the difference. We can drive this down [and] we can possibly see results as early as two weeks from now. So, I encourage all our citizens to engage in wearing their masks and social distancing.”

The governor also discussed the state’s progress in completing the 2020 Census, which determines billions of dollars in federal funding and the appropriation of federal legislative seats.

Currently, the state’s census response rate is at 57 percent below the national average of 62 percent and 41st in the country. Of the most responsive counties in the state, Faulkner County ranked first, returning a response rate at just over 65 percent. Vilonia and Greenbrier were in the Top 10 of cities statewide with the highest response rates.

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