Early signs of a decline in the growth of COVID-19 cases in Northwest Arkansas was touted Thursday (June 25) by Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a sign his strategy is working to contain the virus. State numbers continue to rise, however, with known cases up 128% in June.
The number of known cases reported in Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas have in recent days moderated from several weeks of alarming growth. Even with what may be an early trend of slowing growth, the two-county area accounts for 28.2% of all known cases in the state and 32.2% of active cases.
Gov. Hutchinson, who has resisted calls to mandate mask wearing or roll back reopening parts of the economy, said what is happening in the two counties provides lessons for others around the state.
“Again, showing that when there’s a concentration of effort, in masks, in social distancing and taking it seriously, in testing and our isolation, that has a difference in the community,” he said during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith echoed the governor’s view of the slowing of new case growth in Northwest Arkansas.
“It is good news that we are seeing a flattening of the curve in Benton and Washington counties,” Smith said. “And that gives us hope that even in a situation like that where you have quite a bit of transmission going on in the community really driving the state’s increase, with concentrated focused effort we are able to flatten that out.”
On a day when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced suspension of reopening the economy and halt in elective surgeries in some counties to respond to COVID outbreaks in his state, Gov. Hutchinson pushed back when asked by reporters if he would require face mask use or dial back some phase two aspects of reopening the state economy. He said a lockdown or cutting back on business activity would cause too much “human suffering” with lost jobs and economic distress. He again stressed his strategy of individual responsibility to wear masks and social distance, while also allowing the economy to function as much as possible.
“It’s important that we balance this with having two messages. Let’s take responsibility, let’s do our strategy, and then at the same time, let’s make sure we don’t shut down our economy,” he said.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 18,062 on Thursday, up from 17,375 on Wednesday. Of the 687 new cases, 168 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,695 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 240 to 242. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 284 on Thursday, up from 267 on Wednesday. There are 66 patients on ventilators, up from 58 on Wednesday. Of the known cases since March 11, 12,127 have recovered.
Of the 519 new known community cases, 46% were in five counties: Washington (96), Benton (45), Pulaski (44), Lonoke (26), and Sebastian (26).
As of Thursday at 1 p.m., there were 2,395,759 U.S. cases and 122,177 deaths. Globally, there were 9,491,799 cases and 484,092 deaths.