Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’ll announce a decision on when bars can begin to reopen on Monday, May 18.
Bars across the state have been closed for nearly two months following a directive from Hutchinson, who also closed dine-in service at restaurants on March 20 to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Restaurants were allowed to reopen dining areas on May 11 at one-third capacity with several restrictions and social distancing limitations.
Hutchinson reiterated that the news coming on May 18 is just an announcement about when the closure will be lifted, and what limitations may be placed on bars once they’re allowed to begin reopening.
A similar announcement about summer camps and team sports is coming Wednesday, May 20, he said.
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Arkansas reached 4,164 on Tuesday, which is an increase of 121 since Monday.
Of those new cases, 21 are from inside correctional facilities and 27 are from the general community in St. Francis County where the federal correctional institute in Forrest City is located.
Smith said UAMS and the state health department increased testing efforts in St. Francis County over the weekend because officials are concerned about that area. He encouraged anyone who works at the institute to get tested for COVID-19 immediately.
“It’s important both for their safety and the safety of their families,” said Smith.
Smith said he’s heard about a graduation party that’s planned in Forrest City this weekend.
“That probably isn’t a good idea in a community where we now know that we have community-transmission of COVID-19 at higher levels than many other communities,” he said.
Hospitalizations are down by two to 59, and 12 patients are on a ventilator. There was one additional death since Monday, bringing the toll to 95.
Smith said a total of 3,220 people have recovered from the illness, which is an increase of 71 since Monday.
Governor Hutchinson said he’s not surprised by the spike in positive cases, but did call today’s news worrisome.
“Let’s don’t let those spikes become outbreaks,” he said.
The governor said Arkansas has received a small supply of remdesivir antiviral medicine from the CDC. The drug, he said, is designed to give relief and hopefully speed recovery for COVID-19 patients.