LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that a White House report on transmission of COVID-19 paints a dismal picture of the state.
“In the White House report, they use this language: Given the change in the slope in the last two weeks, post-Halloween — and this is specific to Arkansas — Arkansas is on the precipice of a rapid, accelerating increase in cases which will be followed with new hospital admissions,” Hutchinson said. “Now, that’s a statement that will get your attention as a leader.”
With the holiday season approaching, Hutchinson said Tuesday, Arkansans need to be mindful that if the present pace over the previous two days continues, an additional 1,000 people in the state will die as a result of COVID-19 by Christmas.
“And that, for anyone who wants to enjoy the cheer of Christmas, is a cloud that hangs over us,” he said, “and that should inspire us to do well, to follow the guidelines, to do everything that we can to break that trend and that is our goal.”
The governor reported that another 1,554 positive cases were reported over the previous 24 hours. That number includes 409 probable cases discovered through antigen cases.
Another 34 patients were hospitalized for a total just shy of the 900 mark. In addition, another 20 deaths were reported, bringing the total as of Tuesday to 2,245.
State Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said the majority of deaths came from nursing homes or other congregational living situations where that population is particularly vulnerable.
He said 7,452 PCR test results were reported over the previous 24 hours and another 3,234 antigen tests.
Hutchinson said the need for vigilance is needed now more than ever and that will include additional compliance checks to make sure people are following Arkansas Department of Health mandates.
He said the ADH has performed more than 3,500 compliance checks since the end of June. Hutchinson introduced Mike Moore, director of the regulatory division of the Department of Finance and Administration and former Boone County sheriff, to discuss enforcement.
Moore said his team has worked hard performing checks at restaurants and bars since the beginning of July. Hutchinson had said 181 violations had been cited since June 29 and another 210 verbal warnings were issued.
Moore said his agency’s goal has been, from the beginning, to provide education and some accountability to help people stay safe in restaurants, bars and clubs.
He said the agency has performed more than 3,700 compliance checks with results showing that 93% of restaurants and bars are trying to follow regulations.
“However,” Moore said, “we need to understand that even a 7% of noncompliance can cause some huge problems when it comes to this COVID-19 disease that our whole state is battling.”
Even one or two locations of noncompliance can cause serious problems.
Even though most citations have resulted in verbal warnings over the previous four months, that’s a long time to be educating people about regulations. He encouraged people to simply wear masks and practicing social distancing when in public.
So, he said people will likely see more accountability brought to bear on violators to try for better results.
“If you’re not afraid of the virus, we understand that,” Moore said. “But the folks that you may infect with this virus is another issue. So, if you don’t want to do it for yourself, please do it for those around you.”
He also asked that people continue praying for the state and country that people would continue to comply with health guidelines to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
Hutchinson said he will be part of a conference call with President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team later this week regarding the governor’s role on the executive committee of the National Governor’s Association.
The call is Biden’s chance to get information from states as the team prepares for Jan. 20 and “what we expect will be a necessary transition.”