COVID-19 deaths reach 100 in Arkansas; some bars may reopen May 19

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 769 views 

The number of known COVID-19 deaths in Arkansas reached 100 Monday (May 18), with hospitalizations rising from 65 on Sunday to 77 on Monday. Also on Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said bars within restaurants may open May 19, and freestanding bars may open May 26.

Gov. Hutchinson gave his daily COVID-19 briefing from Forrest City, the county seat of St. Francis County. The county has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, with the increase tied to an outbreak in the federal prison in Forrest City. The county, according to figures from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has 341 cases, or about 1.4% of the county’s population. By comparison, the positive case percentage in Arkansas is 0.16%.

The first spike in St. Francis County was reported May 12 when 27 of the 100 community cases statewide where in the county. At the time, there were 332 inmates and 17 staff testing positive. There are now 412 positive inmate cases, and the number of staff testing positive is unchanged.

There were 550 tests conducted in Forrest City on Saturday, the “most extensive” testing in any city, Gov. Hutchinson said. Of the tests, results from 290 are known and 24 were positive, or 8.3% of all results. The remainder of the results were expected to be reported Monday evening. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said tests in St. Francis County has reached 762 per 10,000, far more than the state tally of 290 tests per 10,000.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 4,813 on Monday, up from 4,759 on Sunday. The number of deaths rose from 98 to 100. Of the total cases, 1,068 are active cases, with 378 in correctional facilities and 99 in nursing homes. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 77 on Monday, up from 65 on Sunday. There are 12 patients on ventilators, unchanged from Sunday. There are 3,645 Arkansans who have recovered.

As of Monday at 1 p.m., there were 1,491,547 U.S. cases and 89,666 deaths. Globally, there were 4,758,937 cases and 316,277 deaths.

The governor also noted Monday that bars within restaurants may open May 19 and freestanding bars may open May 26. The ADH is expected later today to post guidelines on what bars must do to open and operate. The language, according to the governor, will be similar to that of restaurants with respect to standard social distancing.

Gov. Hutchinson also said he plans to share Arkansas’ COVID-19 story with President Donald Trump during his Wednesday visit to the White House.

“[It’s an] Opportunity to illustrate what people here in Arkansas are doing to open up the economy, to get back to business, to get back to work, but also how they have successfully lived through this and did all that they could to be safe during this time,” the governor said, adding he also will talk about the more than 60 food processing plants in the state and “the extraordinary job” they are doing to keep the food supply moving.

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