Governor to limit public events after virus exposure


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said he’s limiting appearances at public events and meetings after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 last week.

The governor said he was informed by contact tracers that a person who was in a meeting with him on Friday had tested positive for the virus. Hutchinson said he received negative results after an antigen test and a subsequent PCR test on Monday.

Hutchinson said he was over six feet away from the person for the duration of the meeting, but still wanted to be careful so he addressed the media virtually at his weekly coronavirus update on Tuesday.

“While the meeting did not rise to the level of CDC quarantine guidance, out of an abundance of caution, I will be limiting my meetings in order to make sure that we don’t inadvertently expose anyone,” Hutchinson said.

The governor was asked why he continued with planned visits across the state on Monday to campaign for a highway tax measure when he knew he’d been exposed to the virus.

“I was fully aware that I might have to cancel those events on Monday…and that’s why I was tested early,” Hutchinson said. “If the tests had come back positive – either the antigen or the PCR – I would not have participated in that trip.”

The governor said he and his staff wore masks during the events and practiced social distancing.

“As I came back after that, the Department of Health had a further discussion with the individual that tested positive and they said out of an abundance of caution let’s go ahead and not quarantine but let’s limit the engagements to really essential activities,” Hutchinson said. “And I will probably be having additional tests this week.”

The governor’s news came as the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas passed the 100,000 mark.

The number of new confirmed and probable cases increased by 844 on Tuesday, bringing the overall statewide total to 100,441.

That increase included 628 cases confirmed from PCR testing and 216 cases that are considered probable after detection by antigen testing. Of those new cases, 81 were from correctional facilities.

Hospitalizations were up 24 for a new record high of 637, and patients on a ventilator were up two to 101.

There were 14 additional deaths announced Tuesday, which brings the toll to 1,728.

There are currently 8,422 active cases and 90,283 recoveries.

Officials said there were 5,439 PCR tests conducted Tuesday, along with 2,429 antigen tests. Total tests in October are now at 212,608.