Gov. Hutchinson to end daily COVID briefings, defends Trump’s comments about minimizing the virus

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,204 views 

With improved methods of reporting COVID-19 cases and a recent decline in new case numbers, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday (Sept. 10) his daily briefings – ongoing since mid-March – will end after Friday.

Gov. Hutchinson said the daily briefings – 143 as of Thursday – have been “a very useful tool” in communicating with the public but there are now more sources of information available daily from the Arkansas Department of Health and other groups. Future briefings will be weekly or as needed. He said jokingly that Arkansans must ensure cases keep declining or he will bring back the daily briefings.

“If you want to get rid of me, make sure you keep those cases low,” the governor said. “That we do everything that we need to do so you don’t have to come back and hear from me more frequently.”

Reported known new COVID cases have declined in early September. The case growth during August was 37%, but is down to 8.6% through the first 10 days of September. When asked about the decline in new cases, Gov. Hutchinson said people are taking the virus more seriously, especially with the start of school. He also said contact tracing has improved allowing officials to better contain the virus and guard against outbreaks. But the decline needs to continue.

“I would still like to see the numbers decline more, obviously. This is not where we want to be in a long-term result, but I’d much rather prefer a plateau here than at a much higher level which we were tinkering with it seems a couple of weeks ago,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 66,804 on Thursday, up from 66,406 on Wednesday, with 4,900 test results from the previous 24 hours. Of the 398 new cases, 6 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,196 active cases. There were 430 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours with 70 positive results.

The number of deaths rose from 928 to 940. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 392 on Thursday, down from 411 on Wednesday. There are 79 patients on ventilators, down from 82 on Wednesday. There are 60,668 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new known cases were: Pulaski (72), Washington (37), Jefferson (33), Craighead (30), and Saline (18). The counties accounted for 48.5% of the 392 new community cases.

As of Thursday at 1 p.m., there were 6,377,540 U.S. cases and 191,360 deaths. Globally, there were 27,962,101 cases and 905,470 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson also said in response to a media question that he didn’t see the harm in President Donald Trump’s taped comments with reporter Bob Woodward.

In Woodward’s book, “Rage,” – set for release Sept. 15 – and in released audio tapes of interviews Woodward conducted with Trump for the book, the President confirms knowing the deadly severity of COVID-19 in February. On one audiotape, the President tells Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

With the knowledge of how deadly the virus was, Trump said publicly many times the virus will “miraculously” go away with warmer weather and “it’s going to work out good, we only have 11 cases and they’re all getting better.” He also said during a Feb. 28 campaign rally that the virus is the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

Gov. Hutchinson said Trump was not minimizing the impact of the virus in a harmful way, but was simply “communicating in his unique style.”

“I looked at that. I looked at what the President said, and I don’t think anybody is surprised by the fact that he tried to encourage the economy, he tried to minimize some of this virus and its impact,” the governor said. “I think that’s clear from many different public statements. But what’s important to note is that the public was very well informed. One of the things that was attributed to the president, is that this was transmissible in a viral way, that it’s airborne. Well, everybody knew that early on, and that was being spoken by Dr. [Anthony] Fauci. We understood that. The public is not misled on that. The facts were well known. I think for that reason Dr. Fauci was not overly concerned about the President’s comment. Whenever it comes to the public dialogue and information, the most important thing is as a leader that you give honest information to the public, that you make sure that they are aware of what is needed for them to make decisions on their behavior. It’s also important that a leader not create panic. And at that point in time, there was a lot of information out there that was panic-oriented, and it was not really supportable by data.”