Nearly 60,000 Arkansans have tested positive for the coronavirus as the state saw another triple-digit spike in new cases on Friday.
In his daily briefing, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced 838 new cases, bringing the state total to 59,583. An additional 17 Arkansans died from COVID-19 for a death toll of 756.
He urged Arkansans to avoid spreading the virus going into the weekend.
“What happens with our behavior on the weekend will impact us next week and the week beyond in terms of our schools, our workplace, our families,” Hutchinson said. “We have to follow the same social distancing guidelines on the weekend.”
Hutchinson said Friday’s uptick in cases included 181 inmates of correctional facilities, including 123 from the Varner Unit state prison. The number of Arkansans hospitalized with the disease fell by 26 to 407 Friday with 95 patients on a ventilator.
Both the governor and Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero fielded questions Friday about Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who posted numerous photos to social media from a Republican National Convention event at the White House on Thursday while not wearing a face mask or practicing social distancing.
When asked, Hutchinson defended Rutledge.
“I've been with Attorney General Rutledge numerous times and she always is wearing a mask. She's doing exactly what she should do. That’s been my experience with that and so we need to continue to do that,” Hutchinson said.
The governor added that he had been tested for COVID-19 at a recent visit to the White House, though it’s unclear whether Rutledge received a test before Thursday’s event. Romero said people who are tested for COVID-19 should self-isolate until receiving results, but only if they have symptoms or believe they’ve been exposed to the virus.
“Our recommendations for isolation are for individuals that suspect they have been exposed to, or have been exposed to, or who have symptoms that are suggestive of COVID and are tested. They are suspected to be infected. And they should be isolated for the appropriate length of time, 14 days,” Romero said.
With Arkansas public schools having completed the first full week of in-class instruction, Education Secretary Johnny Key stressed the need for students to stay home from school if they’re awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.
“Parents, if your student is having symptoms or if you have taken your student to be tested, please follow those quarantine guidelines until you have received your test results,” Key said. “In some of the situations we've had students that have come on campus that were pending test results. This does create an untenable situation.”
Health Secretary Romero said three of the 17 new COVID-19 deaths reported Friday were from previous months, three were from Jefferson County and four were among nursing home residents. Pulaski County saw the highest increase in new cases Friday with 65 residents testing positive.
As of Friday Arkansas had 5,496 active COVID-19 cases including 225 nursing home residents and 668 inmates of correctional facilities.