Coronavirus activity continues to rise in Arkansas as the state sees another record increase in new infections.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the uptick of 375 new coronavirus cases Tuesday and three additional deaths from COVID-19. Those increases bring the state’s total number of cases to 7,818 and deaths to 136.
The increase in new cases marks the third time in less than two weeks the state has seen a record uptick in non-incarcerated Arkansans testing positive. Arkansas also saw peaks in infections among the general public on May 20 and May 27.
Speaking in his daily briefing on the pandemic, Hutchinson said the state’s efforts to focus testing on communities seeing a resurgence of the virus is largely to blame for the increase.
"The spike in the new cases that we have reflects the dramatic increase in testing that we're doing, and that we’re really going after the areas that have been positive cases that we were having to do more contact tracing, more testing," Hutchinson said.
Arkansas had a total of 2,115 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday with 132 people hospitalized and 31 on a ventilator. Hutchinson said much of the state’s growth in cases continues to be driven by specific industries and parts of the state.
"Part of that is in the Hispanic community and northwest Arkansas, but also in the poultry industry. [The poultry industry is] doing an amazing job in terms of… doing their own contact tracing, doing their own testing, and so I have a lot of confidence in what they're doing to keep the facilities running, but also to take care of their workers," Hutchinson said.
Benton County in northwest Arkansas saw the largest increase in new COVID-19 cases Tuesday with 65 people testing positive. Pulaski County had the second-highest spike with 63 new cases, though just under half were related to an outbreak at a Jacksonville nursing home.
Washington County saw 57 additional COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with an increase of 33 new cases in Sevier County and 21 in Craighead County.
With coronavirus infections continuing to rise among the Latino community, Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jose Romero said the state is working with stakeholders from the community to help with outreach efforts.
"We discussed testing in hot spot areas. We are developing informational videos and texts in Spanish to transmit the importance of testing and the importance of protective personal measures against COVID-19," Romero said.
Romero said the state’s COVID-19 Latinx Stakeholder Group began meeting in May, and is comprised of 28 members from government, public health, faith and various other backgrounds. Romero will also serve as interim Health Secretary following current secretary Dr. Nate Smith’s departure in August to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Health Department, nearly a quarter of the state’s active cases of COVID-19 are among Latino people. Five of the state’s 136 total deaths from the disease are from the Latino community.
Hutchinson also spoke briefly on the ongoing protests in Little Rock and across the state over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, saying he does not plan to mobilize the Arkansas National Guard.
"I have not made any request of the federal government for military resources, and I do not see that in our future," Hutchinson said. "The role of the National Guard is important under my control as commander in chief of the state military, and their support of the state police and local law enforcement is what I believe is sufficient."
President Donald Trump had urged governors to utilize National Guard forces to quell protests in a nationwide address on Monday.