COVID deaths up more than 67% in August; Gov. Hutchinson pushes back against threatened lawsuit

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,262 views 

With the number of new known COVID-19 cases growing more than 37% in August and COVID deaths up more than 67%, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday (Aug. 31) said an effort by a small group of Republican legislators to end the state’s public health emergency is misguided.

Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, said Monday a lawsuit supported by 18 GOP legislators will soon be filed against the Arkansas Department of Health to end the state of emergency Gov. Hutchinson originally declared March 11. The emergency order was extended for 60 days on Aug. 14.

“The suit will seek an end to the perpetual state of emergency that for the last five months has restricted the rights of citizens of Arkansas to operate and restore their businesses, assemble in their churches, visit the eating establishments of their choice and associate with family and friends without undue government restrictions,” Sullivan noted in a letter.

Gov. Hutchinson said the General Assembly has rules in place that give the executive branch the authority to “protect public health.”

“You cannot have public health guidelines delayed by three or four weeks as they might go through a legislative process. I want to have confidence in our public health team, which is composed of epidemiologists and public health officials that have been trained in dealing with the pandemic. I trust them to do it versus a legislative review,” the Republican governor said.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 61,224 on Monday, up from 60,856 on Sunday, with 4,542 test results from the previous 24 hours. Of the 368 new cases, none were from correctional facilities. There are 5,466 active cases.

The number of deaths rose from 784 to 797. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 420 on Monday, up from 391 on Sunday. There are 87 patients on ventilators, up from 84 on Sunday. There are 54,961 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new known cases were: Pulaski (50), Pope (41), Benton (30), Garland (21) and Yell (19). The five counties accounted for 43.7% of the 368 new community cases.

As of Monday at 1 p.m., there were 6,009,899 U.S. cases and 183,258 deaths. Globally, there were 25,300,289 cases and 847,400 deaths.

New known COVID cases rose from 44,597 on Aug. 3 to 61,224 on Aug. 31, up 37.3%. The number of deaths rose 67.8% from 475 on Aug. 3 to 797 on Aug. 31.

In response to a question about the growing number of COVID cases on college campuses, Gov. Hutchinson said colleges and universities have “a good plan in place” to respond to COVID but the plan requires “self-discipline by the students.”

“There is a high expectation level for the students to do the right thing, to listen to these [guidelines], take it seriously. Most of them are, but the others that don’t cause a problem,” he said.