Nearly a quarter of all people who’ve contracted COVID-19 in Arkansas tested positive for the disease in the past week according to the state Department of Health. This comes as the number of Arkansans hospitalized with the disease again rose to an all-time high at 138.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state saw 249 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and six more deaths from COVID-19. That brings the state’s total cases to 8,067, and total deaths to 142.
While northwest Arkansas has been leading the state’s growth in new cases recently, Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said central Arkansas is also seeing an uptick.
"We had 33 [cases] from Pulaski County, and these were not associated with a nursing home. So we're going to have to watch our numbers here in Pulaski County and be very careful not to let down on those practices of physical distancing, wearing masks, et cetera," Smith said.
Washington and Benton counties together added 48 new cases on Wednesday, with 23 residents of Sevier County in southwest Arkansas testing positive. The increase brought the state’s total number of active COVID-19 cases Wednesday to 2,208.
While the state surpassed Hutchinson’s goal of completing 60,000 tests last month, state health officials are hoping to test all residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Arkansas.
Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Healthcare Association, says those results will largely determine whether the state’s nursing homes can reopen for visitors.
"Just like out in the community, a large number of positive cases in long-term care [facilities] have been asymptomatic,” Bunch said. “While an increase in these numbers may be startling, and that's what we expect, it will improve our ability to confront the threat of the virus and further protect our patients."
Bunch says nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be allowed to reopen on a case-by-case basis. Since the pandemic began, 423 residents and 289 staff of Arkansas nursing homes have tested positive for the coronavirus.