Gov. Asa Hutchinson described himself as a “singular national voice” calling for utilizing the National Defense Production Act to expand national testing of COVID-19 at his regular briefing at the State Capitol on Monday.

The governor said as cases rise across the country and commercial labs continue to be stretched to their capacity limits, using the National Defense Production Act would encourage further investment and alleviate stresses on labs.

“The National Defense Production Act is a tool that can be used to incentivize or mandate increased [testing] capacity,” the governor said.

He added that he believed it was important to address the issue soon.

“[As we look] to the coming months, I believe it is a matter of some urgency,” the governor said.

After a weekend in which the state recorded its single highest daily increase in new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday with 1,061, the governor said the state recorded an additional 572 cases of the virus on Monday, 569 of which were in the community. The state now has 5,425 active community cases of COVID-19.

Pulaski and Washington Counties recorded the highest numbers of new cases, while Sebastian, Pope, Benton, Mississippi, Crittenden, Craighead and Jefferson Counties also recorded elevated new cases of the virus.

Nineteen additional hospitalizations have been recorded since Sunday for a total of 439. Of the hospitalized patients, 89 are on ventilators, an increase of seven since Sunday. Since Sunday, 515 recoveries have been recorded for a total of 22,106. Two additional deaths have also been recorded for a total of 323.

The state finished 5,254 tests since Sunday. Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the lower testing numbers are due to it being a Monday. The state’s cumulative positivity rate for the new tests was 7.5 percent, below the CDC threshold of 10 percent.

Smith also reemphasized the importance of wearing masks, even if the label says the mask doesn’t prevent contraction of COVID-19.

“These cloth masks are designed for source control,” Smith said. “A surgeon wears a mask to keep their germs from getting in a surgical wound. They work very well for that [purpose].”

Smith said that if more people wore masks and kept their germs from spreading to others, it would protect larger groups of people from getting COVID-19, even if the mask itself doesn’t protect the people wearing them.

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