By Ray King

A number of cases of COVID-19 reported in Northwest Arkansas has pushed the state’s total to more than 6,700, Governor Asa Hutchinson said during his daily COVID-19 press briefing Friday.

In addition, there were an additional nine people hospitalized, bringing the state’s total to 113 which is the highest number that has been recorded. There were seven additional deaths bringing the number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 to 132.

Hutchinson said there were 239 new cases reported over the past 24 hours, with two of them in correctional facilities and the remainder in the communities.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said of the total number of cases, 73 are in nursing homes, 144 in correctional facilities and the remaining 1,482 in communities. Washington County recorded the largest number of new cases with 53, followed by Benton County with 38, Sevier County with 31 and Crittenden County with 21.

A total of 4,946 people have recovered, Smith said.

Using graphs, the Governor said each of the state’s five regions have had an epidemic at different times, and currently it is Northeast Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas who are seeing increases in cases while cases in the other three regions of the state are decreasing.

Smith said many of the new cases in Northwest Arkansas involve people who are younger while the 65 and over age group, the group that is most vulnerable to serious illness or death from COVID-19 has the lowest percentage of cases. Also, 25-percent of the new cases involve the Latino population which could be workplace related, specifically in the Poultry industry.

He said more than 400 cases so far have been connected to the poultry industry. “It’s not about where you go, it’s about what you do when you get there,” he said.

Hutchinson said that he asked Smith to use contact tracing to determine if the lifting of some of the earlier restrictions on restaurants, barber shops, gyms and the like had an effect on the increase and the answer appeared to be no. Specifically, one percent of the people ate at a restaurant, two percent visited a beauty shop, less than one and-a-half percent visited a gym or daycare center, and less than one percent visited a hotel or motel.

The Governor also announced that there will be no press briefings Saturday and Sunday and he will do the briefing Monday during a visit to Rogers in Northwest Arkansas.