NWA continues to lead state in new COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases in Arkansas increased by 239 since yesterday, including 91 combined new cases in Washington and Benton counties, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in his daily press conference held Friday afternoon.

The new cases bring the total in the state to 6,777, with 1,699 cases considered active. 1,482 of those active cases are from the general community. 4,943 patients have recovered.

Of the new cases, 25 are among healthcare workers, 12 are among nursing home residents, and 15 are among nursing home staff.

Hospitalizations increased by nine to 113, which is a new high, and there were an additional seven deaths, bringing the toll to 132. The governor said the state reported 2,702 tests, with a positivity rate of 4.1%.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the state has tested about 4% of its population so far.

Washington County led the state in new cases with 53, and Benton County was second with 38 new cases. Sevier County reported 31, Crittenden County reported 21 and Pulaski County reported 15.

Smith said the northwest Arkansas region is the only part of the state that is currently experiencing an increase in hospitalizations.

The governor characterized the cases in the five public health regions as “five epidemics” at various stages, with the central, northeast, and southeast regions fairing well, and the northwest and southwest regions currently are “fighting a challenge.”

“I think it’s a reminder and good information for everybody to know where you are in the state, what you are facing, the challenges,” Hutchinson said. “I hope that we are, one, if you are in a region that is doing very well, don’t cause that to spike that back up. If you are in a region in which you are at a higher level, it should be an admonition for us all to work together, to pull together, to bring the cases back down, and to stop the spread of that virus.”

Smith said that the state is planning several testing events in the coming days, including one in Fayetteville on Saturday. Events are also scheduled in West Memphis, DeQueen and Pine Bluff, and Smith said the hope is to test around 500 people at each event.

Testing events are also planned next Saturday, June 6 in Jonesboro, Wrightsville and El Dorado.

State campgrounds to open June 1

State campgrounds are set to reopen next week on Monday, June 1.

The campground reopening includes tent camping in Arkansas state parks, and bathhouses in the system that support campers and day-use visitors.

Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism Stacy Hurst said parks staff are now equipped with the personal protective equipment needed for employees, and a system is in place to reopen facilities in a safe manner.

Hurst said rangers and uniform staff will be monitoring visitors and reminding them of their responsibility to use the parks facilities wisely.