Arkansas has seen its second-largest spike in new coronavirus cases following two days of decreasing numbers of people testing positive.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday 734 people in the state had tested positive, bringing the total to 25,246. Four more Arkansans died from the disease, bringing the death toll to 305.
Speaking in the governor’s daily briefing on the pandemic, Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said new case growth in Arkansas is being driven by spread among the general public.
“We're in a phase of this epidemic where we're not seeing this being driven primarily by a specific setting, like nursing homes or correctional facilities, or some particular occupation. This is something that's happening in the community,” Smith said. “Of course if someone is infected they're very likely to bring it home with them. It's difficult to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a home, especially before you even know you're infected.”
Wednesday’s increase brought the state’s total number of active COVID-19 cases to 5,545, including 125 nursing home residents and 350 inmates in correctional facilities. The number of Arkansans hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased by 11 for a total of 358, with 79 patients on a ventilator.
Hutchinson also discussed results from a recent survey of 600 adult Arkansans, where 82% of respondents said they wear personal protective equipment like face masks when in public.
“I think it was an encouraging number, but it doesn't mean that we've got every resident of Arkansas wearing the mask 100% of the time for 82% of people. I think it means you've got 82% of the people of Arkansas wearing a mask some of the time,” Hutchinson said.
Results from the survey, done by the Little Rock-based Gilmore Strategy Group, also show over half of respondents favor a regional approach to health directives and business restrictions related to the pandemic as opposed to a statewide approach.
Hutchinson also responded to projections from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences showing the state could have as many as 150,00 active COVID-19 cases by the end of October.
“In terms of the modeling data, it's going to change next week. It's going to change the week after that, and it’s going to change the week after that. So that's going to be an ongoing dialogue. I look at it, I try to learn from it, but I also know that that predictive model is difficult to ascertain its level of [reliability].”
Pulaski County had the highest number of new cases Wednesday with 87 people testing positive. Washington County saw 72 new cases, with 60 residents of Benton County testing positive. Pope, Mississippi and Yell counties added 46, 39 and 32 new cases, respectively.