The Arkansas Department of Health reported 10,368 cumulative COVID-19 cases Wednesday, while Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he will allow the second phase of statewide reopening to begin Monday.
During Phase 2, all businesses previously permitted to reopen can expand from one-third to two-thirds customer capacity, Hutchinson said in his daily press conference. A directive outlining specific changes will be released by the ADH before Phase 2 goes into effect, he said.
The statewide case total rose to 3,087 active cases, with 288 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday, ADH Director Nate Smith said.
Since the beginning of June, 37,907 Arkansans have been tested, including 4,420 since Tuesday’s press conference, Smith said. This puts the state on track to test 120,000 people by the end of June.
Of active cases, those aged 25-44 account for 38% and those 45-64 make up 29%. Across the state, 181 people are hospitalized, up from 173 Tuesday, and 49 are on ventilators, up from 44, Smith said. The death toll rose Wednesday from 161 to 165 people, while 7,116 people have recovered.
Of the 3,087 active cases, 199 are in correctional facilities and 138 are in nursing homes. Sixty of Wednesday’s new cases originated in correctional facilities, Smith said.
Both the rate of daily new cases and the rate of daily testing in Arkansas have increased sharply in recent weeks.
For example, roughly 40,000 people were tested between May 31-June 9, with about 3,000 positive results. In comparison, 20,000 people were tested in the first 33 days of the outbreak, with more than 1,000 testing positive.
Washington County has the most cumulative cases in the state with 1,235, while Pulaski County has 1,188 cases and Benton County has 1,137 cases, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Washington County reported 583 new cases from June 3-10 and 44 new cases between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the ADH. Benton County reported 437 new cases during the last seven days and 37 since Tuesday.
Benton County has tested 18,549 people, roughly 6.6% of its population, while Washington County has tested 8,804 people, nearly 3.7%, according to the ADH.
Northwest Arkansas’s spike in confirmed cases and hospitalizations has been caused by surging community spread rather than increased testing, Birch Wright, chief operating officer of the Washington Regional Medical System, said in a statement Wednesday. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in NWA has jumped from four to more than 70 since May 12, Wright said.
“It is important for our community to understand that we are not seeing more hospitalizations simply because more testing is being done,” Wright said. “We are seeing more hospitalizations because more people in our area are being infected with the virus.”
Washington Regional officials are treating the surge in virus spread as a public health crisis and opened a second inpatient care unit for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 on Tuesday, Wright said in the statement.
The hospital system’s COVID-19 clinic, dedicated to testing asymptomatic individuals who may have had contact with infected people, reopened Wednesday at 3318 North Hills Blvd. in Fayetteville.
Nearly 2 million people in the U.S. have tested positive to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 112,133 have died, a 5.68% death rate.