Arkansas active coronavirus cases continue to spike

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Arkansas continued to spike Saturday – a trend Gov. Asa Hutchinson partially attributed to more widespread testing for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

With increased testing comes better contact tracing and spotting other possible cases, Hutchinson said.

However, he also warned that Arkansas residents must continue to be disciplined in their social distancing and safety practices.

“Increased cases indicates that there’s more Arkansans that are out there than we knew about before that are positive and could potentially spread virus,” the governor told reporters at a briefing.

Hutchinson told of receiving a text Saturday from a friend in northeastern Arkansas about positive cases coming out of a high school swim party “that I’m sure everybody thought was harmless. They’re young. They’re swimming. They’re just having activity. And positive cases resulted from that.”

The state has been rolling back coronavirus restrictions on businesses in recent days. Pools and water parks were allowed to reopen Friday, and freestanding bars can resume service on Tuesday.

Casinos, theaters, arenas and other indoor entertainment venues were allowed to reopen this week.

At least 5,775 people in Arkansas have tested positive for the disease, an increase of 163 from Friday, with two deaths bringing the death toll to 115, Hutchinson said. The true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Hutchinson also announced Saturday that he was forming a Governor’s Technical Advisory Board to be chaired by Austin Porter III, deputy chief science officer at the state Department of Health. The board will study new technologies, such as applications that can help with contact tracing.

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