COVID-19 cases reach new record; ABC officers asked to monitor bars and restaurants for compliance

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 857 views 

A day after Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted recent declines in new known COVID-19 cases in Northwest Arkansas, cases in that area rose almost 35%, and the state reached on Friday (June 26) a new high of 669 reported community cases.

The governor stressed Friday during his daily COVID-19 briefing there is no correlation between the limited opening of the Arkansas economy and the rise in cases. He said contact tracing data shows 2% of new cases come from restaurants, 2% from churches and 2% from elective doctor/dentist visits.

Gov. Hutchinson also provided info on ICU (intensive care) hospital capacity in response to media questions from prior briefings. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) provided the data on the state’s five health regions.

Following is the data per region.
ICU beds with patients: 58
ICU beds available: 42

ICU beds with patients: 43
ICU beds available: 60

ICU beds with patients: 9
ICU beds available: 18

ICU beds with patients: 2
ICU beds available: 18

ICU beds with patients: 13
ICU beds available: 32

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 18,740 on Friday, up from 18,062 on Thursday. Of the 678 new cases, nine were from correctional facilities. The 669 new community cases marked a new daily record. There are 5,707 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 242 to 249. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 284 on Friday, unchanged from Thursday. There are 63 patients on ventilators, down from 66 on Thursday. Of the known cases since March 11, 12,784 have recovered.

As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 2,429,769 U.S. cases and 124,544 deaths. Globally, there were 9,679,764 cases and 491,095 deaths.

Of the 669 new known community cases, 50.5% were in five counties: Washington (122), Pulaski (84), Benton (68), Sebastian (33), and Faulkner (31). The number of reported new cases is up 136% so far in June.

Gov. Hutchinson said he has asked Alcoholic Beverage Control officers to report to the ADH bars or restaurants not complying with social distancing, the wearing of masks, or other state health directives. In response to a media question, Gov. Hutchinson said bars and restaurants are not the sources of new case growth, but he is open to closing bars and restaurants – a move taken by Texas and Florida – if the locations become an outbreak source.

“If the data showed that we’re having outbreaks as a result of bars not following guidelines and resulting in positive cases that demonstrate a problem, then certainly we would take action, but that has not been the case,’ he said.

When asked about business owners having to be the “bad guy” when it comes to enforcing mask use and social distancing, the governor said customers should know better but business owners do have the obligation to enforce rules in their businesses.

“You’d have to be asleep under a log somewhere not to know that wearing a mask protects others and protects yourself. … Well, if they come in and they’re not willing to comply with the directives, that’s the responsibility of the business owner to make sure that there is compliance or that customer is asked to leave,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Gov. Hutchinson also said a directive issued Thursday by Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. requiring the wearing of masks is “supportive of the state directives.” The Little Rock ordinance requires everyone to wear face coverings in public places except when it’s possible to maintain six feet of physical distance from others. Masks are encouraged, but not required, in private businesses like grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets and laundromats. Children 12 years old and younger are exempt from the ordinance, as are those driving a car or with health-related issues.

The governor, who had opposed a similar effort in Fayetteville, but said Mayor Scott’s directive includes language that falls under state rules.

“In essence, this proclamation is an encouragement for people to wear a mask,” he said.

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