LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Arkansas had 151 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, contributing to the growing number of cases that have pushed the state into a “second peak,” according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
At a news conference, he asked that Arkansans “do the right thing” by following guidelines to stay home, wear masks, and stay 6 feet away from people.
“This is not about politics, this is not about philosophy; other than being a good neighbor, being a good citizen and doing the right thing,” Hutchinson said. “Wearing a face cover in public is not an issue of individual freedom, it’s about keeping others safe.”
There were 1,729 active cases on Tuesday; 1,191 of those were in the community. Officials reported that 107 people were hospitalized due to the virus—Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said that’s one of the highest numbers of hospitalizations for the virus Arkansas has seen.
There were two additional deaths since Monday; 119 people in Arkansas have now died from the virus.
“Those individual decisions are going to be what we need more and more to protect ourselves and our communities,” Hutchinson said.
One recent COVID-19 death was a woman who was infected at a Mother’s Day gathering, according to the governor.
“Yes, 99 percent may recover, but that leaves 1 percent who don’t,” Smith said.
Hutchinson fielded questions on a recent “swim party” that led to a cluster of new cases and images of large crowds on Arkansas lakes celebrating over the weekend that have circulated online.
“The national media focuses on one or two instances where things look bad,” Hutchinson said. “You want to recognize how many people in Arkansas have done the right thing ... the vast majority are paying attention and following the guidelines.”
Hutchinson said that Arkansas is at a critical point in determining if cases continue to rise, or begin to drop.
“But, there were more than a few who put their own convenience above the health of others, and that’s really not helpful,” He said. “I challenge all Arkansans to think this through.”
Benton County and Washington County have had the most significant increase in cases recently. On Tuesday, 31 percent of cases in Arkansas were in the southeast region of the state, 30 percent were in central, 19 percent were in the northeast, 11 percent were in southwest and 8.4 percent were in northwest Arkansas.
Arkansas’ Hispanic community has also seen an increase, with Latinos making up 42 percent of new cases, according to Smith. He said more accessible testing could be the reason for the spike in the community.
Almost 62,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the month of May, surpassing the governor’s goal to perform 60,000 tests this month. Hutchinson said on Tuesday that the positivity rate for those tests has consistently been below the national average of 10 percent positivity.
Hutchinson announced at the news conference that Smith is leaving Arkansas on Aug. 28 to work for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
“There is absolutely no disagreement with the approach we’ve been taking here,” Smith said of working with Hutchinson during the outbreak. “Working with the governor has been one of the highlights of my career, and it made it very difficult to make this decision.”
Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Jose Romero, who is the Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, will serve as the interim secretary of health.
There have been 6,180 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Arkansas, with 4,332 recoveries and 119 deaths.