Arkansas governor warns ‘newer peak or a higher peak’ could be on the way

FULL BRIEFING 5/26: Gov. Hutchinson and ADH for Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT/WMC) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson warned Tuesday in his regular COVID-19 briefing that a “newer peak or a higher peak” could be on the way.

“We’re at a critical point in our journey,” said Hutchinson. “The direction we go from here totally depends on the commitment of Arkansans to continue social distancing and following guidelines.”

The governor went on to say, “For Arkansas to get to phase two, we must continue to follow the guidelines.”

The governor and Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, pointed out a “swim party” in Paragould last week, saying attendees tested positive for COVID-19 after the party.

Hutchinson cited privacy concerns for not releasing specifics about the party but said one woman was hospitalized and other attendees tested positive.

“These gatherings that people have, if we don’t take precautions, they can end up with people being sick or even worse,” said Smith.

As of Tuesday, 119 people in Arkansans have died from the virus -- 19 percent of those were in northeast Arkansas.

“Why are we worried about a disease where 99% of the people recover? Because of that 1% of the population that will die," said Smith. "If you applied that to the population of Arkansas, that is 30,000 deaths. That’s not acceptable.”

So far during the month of May, Arkansas has tested nearly 62,000 people for the virus.

As of Tuesday, there were 151 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 6,180. A total of 1,729 of those cases are active. there have been 107 hospitalizations and 18 people have required ventilators.

So far, 4,332 people in Arkansas have recovered from the virus.

As of Tuesday, Arkansas’s restaurant bars and standalone bars are allowed to reopen.

The governor also announced Tuesday that Smith will leave his post at the Arkansas Department of Health in August for a job at the CDC in Atlanta. Hutchinson named Dr. Jose Romero, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, as the interim secretary of health.

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