New COVID-19 cases in state top 675

By Ray King

An additional 678 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Arkansas over the past 24 hours with nearly all of them in community settings.

State Health Director Dr. Nate Smith said Friday that only nine of the new cases came from a correctional facility. With the new cases, there have now been 18,740 cases of COVID-19 since mid-March.

At his daily press briefing, Governor Asa Hutchinson said there are currently 284 people hospitalized, the same as was reported, and there have been seven additional deaths, raising the state’s total to 249.

Washington County reported the highest number of cases for any single county with 122, followed by Pulaski Count with 84, Benton County with 68, Sebastian Count with 33, Faulkner County with 31, Crittenden County with 26 and Pope County with 22. No other county in the state had more than 20.

Smith said of the 18,740 cases statewide, 5,707 of them are considered active and there are 12,784 people who have recovered from the virus.

Hutchinson said agents of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board who regularly inspect bars and restaurants to notify the State Health Department if, during their inspections, see violations of state directives regarding COVID-19.

The Governor also provided information showing that several clusters of COVID-19 had resulted from church attendance and when asked why he had not issued a directive to deal with that, said that he respected the separation of church and state and in the case of churches not following guidelines regarding social distancing and the like, the practice is to talk to the pastor or church leaders and try to resolve the problem.

Smith also talked about testing and said that the State Health Department will complete its testing at all the state’s nursing homes this week and will go back next week to complete any testing that is needed. He said the rate of those testing positive has been less than one percent.