Arkansas reports its highest daily spike in new coronavirus cases, numbers expected to grow

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Residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas, wait in line to file for unemployment on April 6, 2020.

Nick Oxford | Reuters

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Friday that the state reported 731 new coronavirus cases since Thursday, the largest daily jump since the outbreak began. 

The newly reported cases represent a near 6.8% increase compared to Thursday as outbreaks continue across the state, bringing the total to at least 11,547. Hutchinson said 207 of those cases were reported at state correctional facilities.

Its previous highest daily jump in cases was just over 450 in mid-May, according to a graph Hutchinson presented at a press briefing. 

“As I look into next week, I do expect the cases to continue to increase,” Hutchinson said. “I think that is natural whenever we see the pattern we’ve seen over the last week, particularly in northwest Arkansas, I expect that to continue to increase until we can get a handle on that and reduce that spread.”

Arkansas has more than 3,700 active cases in the state, he said. There are now more than 200 people hospitalized with suspected Covid-19 and the health department reported an additional five deaths since Thursday, bringing the total to 176. 

“We’ve gone over 200 hospitalizations in Arkansas, which is significantly higher than when we were really at what I thought was the first peak in April,” Hutchinson said.

Arkansas is one of a handful of states reporting a recent spike in Covid-19 cases. The state is still scheduled to move into its phase two reopening on Monday, which will allow restaurants and other businesses to increase capacity, Hutchinson said. 

“I don’t see that what we’re doing is not working. We might not be doing it well enough. I think the strategy is the right strategy,” he said. 

The state hasn’t seen any evidence that lifting its phased one restrictions had a correlation with an increase in cases but recommends residents continue social distancing, Hutchinson said. 

However, Hutchinson said that he wouldn’t mandate residents to wear a face mask when venturing out in public because it wouldn’t be enforceable and “it’s just not Arkansas.” 

Many health experts have said that wearing a face covering can reduce the spread of Covid-19 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests wearing a face covering to reduce asymptomatic transmission among family members and in nursing homes and other facilities. 

The CDC warned on Friday that states may need to reimplement the strict social distancing measures that were put in place earlier this year if U.S. coronavirus cases rise “dramatically.” However, the agency didn’t specify what would be consider a significant increase in cases and it left decision-making up to local areas for now. 

“Unless you’re in the vulnerable age category or have health conditions, we need to be out, we need to do our business, we need to live life, just do it safely and carefully,” Hutchinson said. 

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