The rate of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continues to increase as Arkansas added 486 new confirmed cases Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 74,772. Of those cases, 6,188 are considered active, according to the state Department of Health.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 12 for a total of 459. 12 more people have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 1,060.
Pulaski County had the highest number of new cases with 80. Benton County added 55, while Craighead County added 30.
The state added 6,810 PCR testing results in the past 24 hour period, along with 651 antigen tests, officials announced. The total number of PCR tests for the month of September is now 163,704, which is 16,296 short of the state’s testing goal of 180,000 by the end of the month. Arkansas has already surpassed its monthly antigen testing goal of 10,000, recording a cumulative 13,863 tests Tuesday.
During his weekly briefing on the pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke on the increase in antigen testing results, an increase he says he predicted would happen.
"With the new antigen machines in, that we’re gonna see more people take advantage of that. It’s a quick response and it’s gaining, growing in acceptance across the country and here in Arkansas," Hutchinson said. "We’ve invested in for people to take advantage of, and they are. In particular, with our education system moving and continuing, that’s a helpful tool."
According to Education Secretary Johnny Key, a total of 106 schools in Arkansas have modified how they teach students due to the pandemic, though he said 83 of them have returned to normal operations. 22 schools currently are under a modified plan due to the coronavirus, with another out due to a water line break.
Secretary of Corrections Solomon Graves spoke on the impact the virus has had on correctional facilities.
Graves said there are currently 379 active COVID-19 cases in Arkansas prisons. Additionally, of those cases, seven inmates are being treated for COVID-19 in outside hospitals, with two of those inmates on a ventilator.
Earlier this month the state resumed the admission of new inmates, which was suspended in June due to an outbreak at the Ouachita River Unit.
"We’re currently bringing in inmates in in cohorts of 48. Those inmates are being held in quarantine for 14 days. During the course of their 14-day quarantine, they will be tested at a minimum of three times. One of those upon intake, once at the approximate halfway point, and the final test being administered about two to three days before they complete their 14-day quarantine," Graves said.
If an inmate tests positive, Graves says they are held in further isolation, along with those who were exposed to virus.
Arkansas is now in the process of providing payments for the second week of the Lost Wages Assistance Program, with funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to Commerce Secretary Mike Preston, FEMA has approved funding for the first three weeks for now. However, some Arkansans who do qualify for the payments must take additional steps to receive the payments.
"Those on traditional unemployment benefits from August 1 though August 22 must go back in and recertify that their unemployment was due to a result of a COVID-19 impact. That is what will make you eligible for these lost wages assistance dollars," Preston said.
The deadline to recertify for those payments is Friday, Sept. 25.
With Tuesday being the first day of fall, the governor announced a strategy for the pandemic during the coming colder months and flu season. Hutchinson called for an increase in the number of Arkansans getting a flu shot, saying he and state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe would get theirs Wednesday. Hutchinson also emphasized the importance of the continued use of masks and social distancing, saying it's not a time for people to grow weary and let their guard down.