The good news is more COVID-19 tests are being conducted in Arkansas. The bad news is more positive cases could require state officials to “rethink” the plan to begin opening up the state economy by May 4.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 2,741 as of Friday afternoon, up from 2,465 on Thursday. Of the 276 new cases between Thursday and Friday, 198 were inmates in the Cummins state prison.
Of the total of cases, 1,763 are active, with the remainder accounting for deaths and recoveries. The number of deaths rose from 45 to 46. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 104 on Friday, up from 101 on Thursday. Of the COVID-19 patients, 25 were on ventilators, up from 24 on Thursday. The number of healthcare workers with COVID-19 was 285, up from 275 on Thursday.
As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 883,826 U.S. cases and 50,373 deaths. Globally, there were 2,766,611 cases and 194,456 deaths.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday (April 24) during his daily COVID-19 press conference that 2,808 test results were reported in the previous 24 hours, far more than the previous high of around 1,600. He said it is uncertain how much of the increase can be attributed to the two-day testing “surge” he announced Thursday.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) website shows a total of 35,443 tests conducted in the state since the pandemic began. The 2,808 test results had a 4.1% positive rate, lower than the 7.9% positive rate with all testing conducted.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said during the press conference he is concerned about a three-day trend of increases in the number of COVID cases. The trend excludes the number of positive cases in prisons. He said more cases are being seen in Northeast and Northwest Arkansas. The concern is that a continuing increase could jeopardize a May 4 goal to begin reopening the economy.
Gov. Hutchinson announced the May 4 “Phase 1” date on April 17, and created the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force to work with his medical advisory board on recommendations for how best to reopen the state economy. Federal guidelines on when state economies can open again include that COVID-19 cases must be on a downward trajectory within a 14-day period, or a downward trajectory of positive tests within a 14-day period.
“If that continues to increase and increase, we’ll have to rethink our strategy,” Smith said of the May 4 goal. “If it [trend] turns around and goes down and we have an overall decrease over the 14-day period of time, then I think we can cautiously proceed. If it’s somewhere in between, we might have to make some decisions that are based on the knowledge we have, not based on all the knowledge we wish we had.”
Gov. Hutchinson also announced Friday a May 18 target date to resume some “non-urgent” dental procedures. Smith said the ADH will provide guidelines outlining a “staged” approach to the procedures allowed and what dentists will need to do to prepare for the May 18 date.