The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Arkansas increased by 261 to 6,538 on Thursday, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
It’s the largest rise to date in community cases in the state over a 24-hour period, meaning none of the cases came from inside a prison.
The previous high was on May 21 when 226 community cases were reported alongside 229 cases from inside correctional facilities for a total of 455 new cases.
Hutchinson said the Health Department performs contact tracing on everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and so far, patients have each reported having had contact with 2.8 people on average in the days prior to testing positive. That means, he said, aside from the 261 new known cases, there could be over 700 other people who could have the illness and who should self-quarantine for 10-14 days to keep from passing the illness along to others.
“That’s a real consequence to someone’s individual life in terms of their work productivity, taking care of their family and all their other responsibilities,” said Hutchinson. “This is just another way to emphasize how important it is to control this virus and to reduce the spread.”
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said of the 6,538 total known cases to date, 1,830 are considered active cases. He said 4,583 people have so far recovered from the illness, which is an increase of 159 since Wednesday. Five more patients have died, he said, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in Arkansas to 125.
Of the active cases, 71 are in a nursing home, 374 are in a correctional facility and 1,385 are from the community-at-large.
Eight more healthcare workers have contracted the virus since yesterday, Smith said, along with eight nursing home residents and six nursing home staff members.
The governor said hospitalizations are down four to 104. Of those patients in a hospital, 27 are on a ventilator, which is an increase of five since yesterday.
Hutchinson said testing is at an all-time high, and that the state has so far conducted 67,500 tests in May, surpassing its goal of 60,000 that was set earlier this month. Hutchinson said 2,966 tests were performed in the last 24 hours with a 3.9% positivity rate.
Over 40% of new cases today came from within Northwest Arkansas, Smith said.
Benton County led with 85 new cases, and Washington County logged 25. Pulaski County was close behind with 22 new COVID-19 cases, while Crittenden County reported 17, Craighead County reported 12 and Sevier County reported 11. All other counties reported fewer than 10 new cases.
Smith said 76% of the new Benton County cases are from Rogers and 80% of the Washington County cases are from Springdale.
About 75% of the total Northwest Arkansas cases came from within the Hispanic community, as did 45% of new cases in Sevier County, he said.
“This indicates we do have challenges in the Hispanic community in terms of our outreach, making them aware, making sure we have testing available,” said Hutchinson, who added that the state plans to ramp up communication and testing efforts in minority communities across the state.
Smith said the average age of positive patients is trending toward younger people. He said the average age of patients who’ve recently contracted the virus in Benton County is 40 and in Washington County it’s age 38. In Craighead County, Smith said, the average age of contraction is 26.
He said symptoms of the illness are becoming less common among COVID-19 patients in Arkansas. Overall, Smith said about half of the 6,538 total known cases were from asymptomatic patients, but that number has increased over the past week and a half with 74% of positive patients showing no symptoms at all when they were tested.