Gov. Hutchinson: COVID-19 cases reach a ‘second peak’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 3,822 views 

Another 160 known community cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday (May 23), with 27% of those in Northwest Arkansas. Of the cases found since March 11, 13.4% have been in the past three days.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday during his COVID-19 briefing the state is in a second peak of positive cases. The first peak was around April 25.

“It’s clear and evident to me … we’ve had a deep dip and then we’re having a second peak right now and they’re really about 30 days apart,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 5,775 on Saturday, up from 5,612 on Friday. Of the 163 new cases, 3 were from correctional facilities. The number of deaths rose from 113 to 115. Of the total cases, 1,564 are active cases, 509 are in correctional facilities and 88 in nursing homes. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 86 on Saturday, up from 81 on Friday. There are 17 patients on ventilators, up from 14 on Friday. There are 4,096 Arkansans who have recovered.

As of Saturday at 1 p.m., there were 1,611,691 U.S. cases and 96,479 deaths. Globally, there were 5,267,452 cases and 339,949 deaths.

Of the cases reported Saturday, 23 were in Benton County and 20 in Washington County. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said most of the Benton County cases were in Rogers with three “family clusters.” Most of the Washington County cases were in Springdale. The other counties with double-digit cases were Pulaski, Sevier, and Yell, all with 17 cases each.

The governor noted five “admonitions” to consider when asking “how should we respond and react to what is evident to me that you’ve got a peak 30 days ago and then you’ve got a second peak here in the last couple of days?”

The first point is to recognize that a record level of testing is resulting in more more cases, but allowing more contact tracing to follow the new cases and ideally contain any potential outbreak, he said. A second point is to monitor hospitalizations.

“We are in good shape in Arkansas now (with hospital space), and we’ll be in good shape in the future,” he said.

The third item Gov. Hutchinson mentioned was to watch the positivity rate. In the past 24 hours of testing, the rate was 3.5%, and overall the state is near a 5% level, which he said is half the national standard.

A fourth item is to watch the number of deaths. He said Arkansas’ per capita death rate is one of the lowest in the nation. Based on the latest death data and recent Census update of 2019 population, the state’s per capita death rate is 0.004%. The national rate is 0.03%.

The final item noted by the governor is the “need to be disciplined in your personal safety habits.” He said the testing shows there “are more Arkansans than we knew about” who can spread the virus.

Gov. Hutchinson also announced creation of a technical advisory board to help the state better use technology in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Austin Porter III, deputy chief science officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, was named advisory board chair.