By Ray King

After seeing the largest number of new cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period Thursday, the numbers for Friday were significantly lower, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

At his daily press briefing, the Governor said 154 new cases were reported with 135 of them from the community and the remainder from correctional facilities.

The number of hospitalizations decreased from 86 to 81 and there were three additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 113.

Getting more specific, Hutchinson said 20 new cases were reported in Washington County and s large percentage of them were form three households and there were eight new cases in Greene County, all from the same street in Paragould.

There are now 5,612 cases of COVID-19 with 1,470 of them active, State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said. Of those, 86 are from nursing homes, 510 from correctional facilities and the remaining 874 from communities. A total of 4,029 have recovered.

Smith also talked about the cases from Thursday, saying health department officials have been able to contact 137 of the 224 cases reported, which is 61 percent. Twenty-four percent of those cases came as a result of contact with a person who previously had COVID-19. Another 37 people who tested positive could be connected to clusters of COVID-19 at employment sites, specifically 21 at Nebo Poultry, 7 at Ozark Poultry, 4 at Cargill and 5 at St. Bernard’s.

Only two people had been to restaurants which had reopened, and two others had been to a gym or fitness center.

Through Friday morning, Hutchinson said 51,275 people have been tested for COVID-19 so far this month. He had set a goal of 60,000 people to be tested in May and said the state will make that goal.

He also talked about unemployment numbers after the national rate of 14.7 percent for April was reported Friday. The rate for Arkansas was 10.2 percent and the Governor said when you put the state rate in perspective with the national rate it shows we “still have work to do.”

Hutchinson said the state started lifting restrictions in May and he hope the numbers for this month will be better.