Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday (July 13) began his daily COVID-19 briefing, which would focus on the need for Arkansans to wear masks, by acknowledging that former U.S. Sen. David Pryor and wife Barbara have the virus, with Sen. Pryor in the hospital and Barbara at home.
Pryor, 85, also a former Arkansas governor and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was admitted to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences because of his age and past history of heart attack and stroke.
Former Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., a son of Barbara and David, issued this statement Monday: “David and Barbara Pryor received positive COVID-19 test results on Friday night, and they went to UAMS mid-day Saturday. UAMS advised Barbara Pryor to return home to self-quarantine since she is asymptomatic. UAMS admitted David Pryor given his age of 85 and the fact that he is a stroke and heart attack survivor. The entire Pryor family is very grateful for the attention and care given by UAMS. Our mother is home and remains asymptomatic while our father is responding well in the hospital. We are hopeful that both will have a full recovery and we look forward to them testing negative soon. Both are in the required isolation and they want to encourage everyone to wear masks, wash hands and follow the other CDC guidelines, so we can stop the spread of this deadly virus. We respectfully ask that you honor our family’s request for much needed privacy and refrain from any calls at this time. We will issue another statement in the upcoming days in the event that either’s status changes, but in the interim, we humbly ask for your prayers.”
“I think about the Pryor family that’s a well known family in Arkansas, and whenever it touches them it touches us all,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
The governor quickly transitioned why more people should wear masks, saying that “all of Arkansas should sense the urgency” of wearing masks, socially distancing and doing other things to contain the virus. That urgency, he noted, also comes as the state is just a few weeks from opening schools.
“[A] mask is the one tool that we have to reduce the spread of the virus, to be able to give ourselves the ability to be out and to move in public without spreading the virus. The mask is something that we want to continue to impress upon Arkansans that that will make a difference for us,” the governor said.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said cloth masks and some surgical masks do not fully prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they do help contain the virus when everyone wears them.
“It is true that these masks, surgical masks, cloth masks, are not designed to protect the person wearing it, not highly protective, but they are very effective in keeping respiratory droplets from becoming aerosolized and infecting others,” Smith said.
Gov. Hutchinson said he has not read the internal memo from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said opening K-12 schools and universities presents the “highest risk” for COVID-19 spread. The New York Times obtained the memo and published a story on July 10. The governor said the state is working on plans to best respond to infections when they happen in the schools.
“The question is not if it’s (infections among students and staff) going to happen but how do you respond when it does happen. And that’s we are developing the specific plans to address it whenever there is a positive case in a school or associated with it,” he said
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 28,939 on Monday, up from 28,367 on Sunday. Of the 572 new cases, three were from correctional facilities. There are 6,510 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 321 to 323. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 439 on Monday, up from 420 on Sunday. There are 89 patients on ventilators, up from 82 on Sunday. Of the known cases since March 11, 22,106 have recovered.
The top counties for new infections were Pulaski (77), Washington (53), Sebastian (40), Pope (25) and Benton and Mississippi with 23 each. Those six counties accounted for 42.1% of new community cases reported Monday. Smith said more than 500 of the new cases over the weekend were from the Ouachita River Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Malvern.
As of Monday at 1 p.m., there were 3,327,388 U.S. cases and 135,295 deaths. Globally, there were 12,977,429 cases and 570,375 deaths.