Gov. Hutchinson sets early closing time for bars; new record again set for active COVID-19 cases

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 720 views 

That last call for alcohol will come earlier beginning Friday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing Thursday (Nov. 19) an 11 p.m. closing time for bars and other businesses that sell “on-premise” alcohol. The early close time will continue each day through Jan. 3.

Gov. Hutchinson said he took the action after a recommendation from his newly appointed Winter Task Force. The action also follows a recent rise in COVID-19 cases that is threatening the capacity and resources of the state’s medical system and caused the White House to note in a Nov. 15 report that “Arkansas is on the precipice of a rapid, accelerating increase.”

The decision by Gov. Hutchinson also comes after more than 270 Arkansas physicians sent him a letter calling for more enforcement of a universal mask mandate, closing all bars and gyms and limiting restaurant service to takeout only, and restricting all indoor gatherings to less than 10 people.

“In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus as a result of prolonged social interaction in group settings, I am accepting the recommendation of the Winter COVID Task Force to require bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell alcohol for consumption in their establishment to close at 11 p.m.,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement. “This is a balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state.”

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) on Thursday reported 2,238 known confirmed and probable new daily cases, just below the record of 2,312 set Nov. 13. Total cumulative cases rose to 139,855. Total confirmed and probable deaths rose by 22 to 2,297. Active cases set another daily record at 12,911.

ICU bed availability fell from 83 on Wednesday to 68 on Thursday, according to the ADH. Gov. Hutchinson said he will hold a press conference Friday to discuss hospital capacity and the rising number of cases.

Also on Thursday, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement reported that 88 Arkansas school districts have had 50 or more new known COVID-19 infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up significantly from 48 districts a week earlier.

COVID REPORT – Nov. 19
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 124,165 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,570 new community cases and 114 cases in correctional facilities
• 15,690 probable cases, up from 15,136 on Wednesday
• There are 12,911 active cases, up from 12,611 on Wednesday
• There were 11,560 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 2,034 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours with 388 positives.

Deaths
• 2,105, up 20
• 192 probable COVID-related deaths, up 2

Hospitalizations
899, down 2

Ventilators
146, up 3

Recovered cases
109,135

The top five counties with new known cases reported Thursday were: Pulaski (207), Washington (131), Sebastian (122), Benton (110), and Craighead (102). The counties accounted for 42.8% of the 1,570 new community cases.

As of Thursday at 1:30 p.m., there were 11,602,736 U.S. cases and 251,328 deaths. Globally, there were 56,593,622 cases and 1,355,143 deaths.

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