The number of COVID-19 cases in Northeast Arkansas continues to grow at a rapid rate even as some political and business leaders have called for a further re-opening of the economy. The number of confirmed virus cases in Craighead County has topped 331, a more than 40% increase from just eight days ago, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. That figure includes one death.
State Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, said he spoke with several business owners earlier this week and there is a strong push to enter phase two of the economic re-opening. He sent a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson urging him to allow for phase two to start in Jonesboro on Friday (June 12).
“We believe the Department of Health’s directives are excessive,” Sullivan wrote the governor.
Hutchinson announced Wednesday (June 10) that a phase two opening could begin on June 15, but additional details have not been released.
Businesses that open or operate beyond the guidelines could be shut down or have their licenses pulled. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin has said the governor is the only person with the authority to enter phase two and all businesses are subject to state regulations.
Craighead County isn’t the only county in Northeast Arkansas that has had case surges and impacts relating to the virus. Lawrence County has only recorded 89 total cases, but has nine deaths. St. Francis County has 764 reported cases with only one death, while Crittenden County has 489 cases with nine deaths. Sharp County has 50 cases with three deaths and Mississippi County has recorded 86 cases and two deaths.
Most of the recorded deaths in the region are linked to nursing homes.
There are several counties in the region that have had few positive cases, but officials warn it could be due to a lack of testing or a delay in testing results. Woodruff County has had only one confirmed case, while Clay County has only had eight cases. Jackson County has recorded only 14 cases.