Arkansans collecting unemployment benefits must now prove they’re searching for a job as the state’s total number of coronavirus cases surpasses 13,000.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that the state had an additional 274 people test positive bringing the total to 13,191, while six more deaths from COVID-19 brought the death toll to 188.
Holding his daily briefing in Hot Springs, Hutchinson said the growth in new cases continues to vary by region, which could merit some business restrictions being reinstated.
“You have to look at a targeted response to where we are in Arkansas right now, and what you're most likely going to see, if there might be a venue that has a high level of positivity and you want to go in and… put some restrictions on to control that. So it could be in a targeted venue or a targeted geographic area,” Hutchinson said.
Arkansas moved to a second phase of reopening on Monday, which allows for businesses to operate at two-thirds capacity. Following a slight decrease over the weekend, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 again reached a new peak at 214.
Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said beginning on June 28, Arkansans filing for unemployment benefits will have to prove they’re searching for work; a requirement that had been lifted due to the coronavirus pandemic. He says some industries continue to be impacted, while some are starting to recover.
“What we were seeing early on is that manufacturing was holding very strong… the numbers drop a little bit in that because of the supply chain, other states who were impacted,” Preston said. “Obviously the hospitality industry is one that was probably hit more so than any other ones, but we're starting to see that bounce back now.”
Preston said the reopening of restaurants and lodging in the state has boosted employment in the hospitality industry. The number of Arkansans filing unemployment claims has dropped by about 16,000 from the highest peak seen during the pandemic of 122,000, according to Preston.
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, medical director for immunizations and outbreak response at the state Department of Health, said new coronavirus cases are growing fastest among young people, but COVID-19 continues to be most lethal to older Arkansans.
“We've had 134 people in the 65 plus age group. That's 70% of the deaths. The 19 through 64 age group is 54 in number, about 29% of the deaths,” Dillaha said. “So what we see here is we may have older adults who have a lower percentage of the cases, but they're at higher risk for dying from COVID- 19.”
Arkansans over 65 years of age account for 11.5% of all coronavirus cases, with just under 40% of all cases seen among people between 25 and 44 years old. According to the Health Department, new COVID-19 cases have grown by over 30% among people younger than 17 in the past week.
Gov. Hutchinson said he would discuss on Wednesday a possible plan to allow for in-person visitation for residents of the state’s nursing homes.