LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. Jose R. Romero update the public on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
Hutchinson announced Tuesday the new numbers over the past 24 hours, with the state setting a record for confirmed COVID cases.
Hutchinson said, “Our hospitals have the capacity for patients, but what we don’t want is to have to cut back on elective procedures. They’re important to the economic health of hospitals, and the health of patients.”
Northeast Arkansas saw a 7.7% growth rate of new COVID cases over the past week, which led the state of Arkansas again.
Governor Hutchinson says businesses are fined for not following mask and social distancing guidelines, and claims his mandate provides for a penalty.
A fine can be levied for disobeying the mandate, but the violator must be warned by police first before issuing a citation.
When the governor was pressed as to why Northeast Arkansas continues to lead the state in new cases, and there is no record of any warnings or fines, Hutchinson said it’s up to the citizens of NEA to control their behavior.
“Our positivity rate has remained below 10% but we’re watching it closely because it has edged up," Hutchinson said.
The influx of hospitalizations in Northeast Arkansas raised some concern about having an adequate beds in ICU units or beds in other units.
Gov. Hutchinson says that there are no plans to “cut back on elective procedures” if hospitalizations become too high, economically impacting hospitals as well as impacting people with other health issues unrelated to COVID.
He said, “It’s been important that we both take care of non-COVID patients and their medical needs as well as COVID patients, so you don’t want to have to cut back on either one of those.”
Dr. Jose Romero said that “The increases in hospitalizations in Arkansas is being driven by those in the 65 and older age group. I think it’s very important that we consider whether it’s appropriate to bring our families together during the upcoming holidays. Especially with regard to older individuals."
Hutchinson said, “We’re going to go through a tough time this winter, but we have to be prepared to fight.”