By Ray King

Arkansas recorded its highest number of community cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, 662, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, the Governor said there were a total 703 cases reported, with 41 of the in correctional facilities and the remaining 662 in communities. The state has recorded 14,631 cases of COVID-19 since early March.

A total of 136 of the new cases were in Washington County and another 112 in Benton County. Pulaski County reported 53, Sevier County 44, Sebastian County 26, Faulkner County 22 and Yell County 21. All the other counties in the state reported 20 or fewer cases.

The Governor said there are now 231 people hospitalized and there have been 214 deaths.

With one Arkansas city adopting an ordinance requiring the use of face masks and a second whose mayor is planning to do the same thing, Hutchinson said he had asked the State Health Department to issue new guidance for the wearing of masks.

That guidance provides that masks should be worn in all indoor and outdoor settings where 6-foot separations are not possible and should cover both the mouth and nose.

He said the guidance is the same as was given to churches when they were allowed to reopen and is not a directive but a recommendation.

Hutchinson also announced that the Arkansas General Assembly has approved using just over $12 million of federal money the state received from the CARES act to pay bonuses to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) who have worked during the pandemic.

Those who worked between 20 and 39 hours weekly will receive an additional $125 a week retroactive to April 4 through May 30 and those who worked 40 hours or more or 150 hours a month will receive an additional $250 per week.

Hutchinson said the money will be paid to the employers of the EMT’s who will then pass it on to their employees.