COVID-19 case numbers across Arkansas continue to rise as testing ramps up after the July-4 weekend.
The number of positive cases rose by 1,061 Saturday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 Case Update dashboard data. The new cases marks the state’s highest single-day increase. Saturday’s high number follows the third-highest single-day increase from Thursday of 806.
The increases throughout the week in new cases represent a sharp contrast to the numbers reported Monday and Tuesday — 439 and 259 respectively. It also follows the highest daily increase – 878 new cases – reported on July 2.
There were 4,567 tests administered Tuesday, an increase of 1,201 from the previous two days, during which a lull followed the July 4 holiday, said ADH Nate Smith.
There were 5,212 tests completed Thursday, Smith said.
The lower testing numbers have been considered when looking at the decrease in cases reported, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during his Tuesday afternoon briefing.
The jump in cases brings the statewide cumulative total to 27,864. As of Saturday afternoon, there were 6,355 active cases, an increase of 507 from Friday and up by 158 in one week. There have been 7,086 new cases reported since July 1.
As of Saturday, there were 412 patients hospitalized, up by ten from the day before and up 107 in a week. Eighty-four of those patients were on ventilators, no change from Friday and an increase of 15 from last week, according to the ADH. There were 319 deaths, up by six from the day before and by 33 in a week. In total, 21,190 people were recovered, up 548 in a day and 4,482 in a week.
Hutchinson urged those seeking tests in Washington County to utilize other testing locations than the Washington Regional Medical Center, which has become overrun with residents in need of testing at his Wednesday briefing.
The Washington County Health Unit is increasing testing and will be “ramping up” efforts to help assist Washington Regional with additional testing and nurses, said Dr. Jose Romero, Section Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases for Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Washington County saw 112 new cases from Friday, bringing its total to 4,456. Benton County saw 61 new cases, bringing its total to 3,416. There are currently 737 active cases in Washington County and 511 in Benton County, according to the ADH.
As counties across the state continue to report cases, some Arkansans have expressed concerns about the return of students to public schools this fall and the upcoming presidential election.
Hutchinson announced Thursday that he will delay the start of the school year for public schools to give districts more time to prepare.
Schools now have the option of reopening as early as Aug. 24 or as late as Aug. 26 instead of the original start date of Aug. 13.
The change will give school districts more time to adjust as necessary and make sure teachers are prepared for the upcoming school year, Hutchinson said.
The governor addressed worries about the upcoming election and voting process at his July 1 daily briefing.
Hutchinson addressed COVID-19 cases at local summer camps in relation to the reopening of schools at his Wednesday press briefing.
Kanakuk Kamps has temporarily closed its Kanakuk K-2 camp in Lampe, Missouri, after 82 campers, counselors and staff tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Facebook post by the Stone County Health Department. Kanakuk is one of many camps in the Ozark region that employs UA students during the summer.
In Mt. Ida, Arkansas, Camp Ozark has temporarily closed after someone at the camp tested positive for the virus.
Hutchinson said he recognizes that environments like camps and schools will need to be worked with and that strictly adhering to public health guidelines will be important.
“Our hope is that as we get to the fall, you are going to have a decreasing number of cases, that makes a difference,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson announced July 1 that voters will be permitted to request absentee ballots if they have concerns about COVID-19 on election day.
“When it comes to easier access to the polls and a safe environment during COVID-19, we are all in agreement on this particular issue,” Hutchinson said.
Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and party leaders for both major parties also addressed the issue during the briefing.
Thurston addressed new safety measures for in-person voting including single-use disposable styluses for use with voting machines, and the continued use of gloves and masks.
Those wishing to receive an absentee ballot by mail must submit the application by Oct. 27, Thurston said.