Thursday saw 448 more COVID-19 cases, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended his decision to lead Arkansas into Phase 2 of reopening.
His main defense was that there was still no correlation between reopening measures and the increase in new cases. Most new cases came from household and community spread.
Hutchinson stated that businesses must set the example of protecting their employees and customers in order to stop the spread of this virus as they are allowed to increase their capacity starting Monday.
Washington County had 143 new cases on Thursday, 93% of which were in Springdale.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases, the number of active cases and the number of hospitalizations were all up as of Thursday’s press briefing.
On Thursday, there were 187 hospitalizations, 45 of which were on a ventilator, and 171 deaths.
Health Secretary Nate Smith has previously stated that hospitalizations are a more accurate metric of actual case increase rather than increase of testing. As hospitalizations continue to rise, this means that it is not just a result of the surge in testing.
In the month of June, Arkansas has administered just over 45,000 tests which is approximately 1,000 ahead of schedule to administer 120,000 tests by the end of the month. Even with the increase of testing, Arkansas has remained below the 10% threshold for positivity set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As the cases continue to increase in northwest Arkansas, the governor’s team continues to check with hospitals to make sure they are able to handle the increase of patients.
According to Hutchinson, the capacity of hospitals is sufficient for both COVID-19 patients and continued day-to-day operations for the hospital. The supply of personal protective equipment is also adequate in the region.
Smith hopes that the CDC team that is set to help in the northwest region will be able to "help stop the chains of transmission."
The governor also announced the plan for schools to return in a "regular fashion" in the fall with supplemental online learning as needed. Hutchinson pointed out that this is a learning experience and that the virus has changed the way people live their lives.
He also indicated that the more cautious Arkansas is now, the easier the return to school in the fall will be for students and teachers.