Arkansas governor: Now is not the time to let up

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson during his Monday COVID-19 briefing.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said despite what he called a flattening of the curve, Arkansas has not yet reached its peak of positive COVID-19 cases.

The governor said the state has decreased the overall growth rate of positive cases per day, but it could be another two weeks before the growth starts trending downwards.

“It’s not a time to decrease our intensity on social distancing, avoiding gatherings of more than 10, and wearing face masks when you cannot appropriately social distance,” said Hutchinson.


He said the total number of statewide cases had reached 1,410 as of Monday. That represents a 130-case increase since Sunday, but Hutchinson said today’s spike is attributed to a viral outbreak in Arkansas prisons where a high number of inmates were tested who are in close proximity to one another.

He said there are 55 positive cases at the federal prison in Forrest City, and that 43 out of 46 inmates in a single barracks at the Cummins Unit have tested positive.


“You have to put that into perspective in terms of where we are,” Hutchinson said. “The testing that comes from our commercial labs is still a very, very low positive percentage.”

He showed several graphs that he said indicate the state’s targeted approach to the virus is working. Newly hospitalized patient counts have decreased since April 9 after steadily increasing over the previous weeks. Currently admitted patients have also declined, he said.


Researchers at the University of Washington, he said, have revised the modeling projections for Arkansas’s peak date from April 24 to April 29.

“Why did they do that? Because we’ve flattened the curve,” said Hutchinson. “I’m amazed at how well Arkansans are doing with this, and I want to thank you as well. But it’s not a time to let up.”

Hutchinson said he’s been asked when the state would allow businesses to reopen, but cautioned against moving too quickly.

“We cannot change the direction we are going at the present time,” he said. “We have decreased the growth rate, but we’re not there yet.”