By Ray King

Monday marked the first day of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s mask mandate to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as the state neared the 34,000 mark in cumulative cases.

During his daily update, Hutchinson said there were 699 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the state total to 33,927. Of those, 7,127 are active.

The Governor said there were 11 counties that reported 20 or more cases of COVID-19 “showing that it has a lot of spread.”

Washington County had the most for any single county with 94, followed by Pulaski County with 60 and Benton County with 57. Crawford County reported 28 cases, followed by Mississippi County and Pope County with 26 each, then Sebastian County with 25, Garland and Miller Counties with 24 each, and Arkansas and Franklin Counties with 21 each. No other county in the state had more than 20.

Dr. Jose Romero, the acting state Public Health Officer said there are 491 people hospitalized, 18 more than on Sunday. An additional 6 deaths were reported, raising the state’s total to 363.

Since July 1, just over 112,000 people have been tested with a positivity rate of 9.6 percent. The governor said that rate needs to get lower, adding that in June, the rate was near the 5 percent positivity rate.

“It shows that the virus has spread to a greater extent,” Hutchinson said. “We need to get it back to normal.”

Hutchinson also announced that he has authorized the use of 10 members of the Arkansas National Guard who will be case managers at Washington Regional Medical Center for up to 30 days.