By Ray King

A total of 226 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Arkansas in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 8,651, Governor Asa Hutchinson said Friday.

In his daily COVID-19 briefing, the Governor said there are now 137 people who have been hospitalized, that’s 10 more than on Thursday, and one additional death was reported raising that number to 152.

Hutchinson said 3,846 tests were conducted with a positivity rate of 3.1 percent, and that in the last 20 days, the positivity rate was under the 10 percent mark that was set by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

He and State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith also talked about contact tracing with the Governor saying that Arkansas is trying to build up its ability to contact and talk to victims of COVID-19 and try to determine how they became infected with the virus.

Smith said beginning next week, the Health Department will be training up to 100 volunteers from various organizations and schools who will be sent to various parts of the state to help with contact tracing. He also said the Health Department has send out a Request for Qualifications and is looking to contract with an organization to conduct contract tracing.

That effort could add up to 350 additional contract tracers to the group already working.

There will be no COVID-19 update on Saturday and Sunday, Hutchinson said.