COVID-19 testing expands to individuals with known exposure, people in communities with ‘active transmission’

Gov. Asa Hutchinson reminded Arkansans that all retail businesses other than bars will be able to be open for business on Monday, May 18.

Hutchinson had previously announced reduced restrictions allowing the re-opening of gyms and fitness centers (May 4), churches and large outdoor venues (May 4), salons and barber shops (May 6), restaurants (May 11), and dentists (May 11). The last of those, large indoor venues, he said earlier this month would reopen on May 18.

“It needs to be emphasized that Arkansas is not under any lockdown order,” he said. “We’ve never done a shutdown order in Arkansas or a stay-at-home order. We’ve taken appropriate precautions and carefulness, and given admonitions on social distancing, but Arkansas, as is indicated by the logos behind me, we are open for business and ready for business.”

Lodges and cabins in state parks officially reopened today (May 15).

The governor previously stated he will make an announcement on when and how bars can reopen on May 18.

Pools, splash pads, water parks, and swim beaches will be allowed to reopen on May 22.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Nate Smith announced Friday that the state is now asking for individuals who believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or that have been in an area where there has been “active transmission,” to be tested for the virus. Previously, testing had been prioritized for individuals with symptoms of the virus.

Communities with active transmission are loosely defined, he said, and could include in-state areas with an influx of new cases or could apply to individuals who have traveled out of state.

A new website, at is now available, with information on testing centers throughout the state.

Case Update

Huthcinson said the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Arkansas reached 4,463 on Friday, which is an increase of 97 since Tuesday. Of those, 975 are considered active cases.

79 of the new cases were in the community, and 18 came from correctional facilities around the state, Hutchinson said.

Hospitalizations decreased by 4 to 65, and there were no new deaths. Nine Arkansans are currently on ventilators, down one from yesterday.


Hutchinson said the state is about halfway to his goal of 60,000 tests during the state of May, with over 29,000 conducted so far this month.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith elaborated on the case numbers. 322 of the state’s 975 active cases are in correctional facilities, he said, 102 are in nursing homes, and 551 are in the community.

Yesterday, 2,669 tests were conducted, Smith said, with a positivity rate of 2.5%. Of those, 2,101 came from commercial labs, 217 came from the Arkansas department of health, and 251 came from UAMS.