The number of COVID-19 deaths continue to increase in the state of Arkansas with two new deaths announced Friday afternoon totaling 23.

The number of COVID-19 deaths continue to increase in the state of Arkansas with two new deaths totaling 23.
According to Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley, one of the new deaths were attributed to Jefferson County. Kelley states the patient was a male in his late 40s who passed away at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. No further details were released.
During Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 update on Friday afternoon he did recognize Richard Richardson, who was a substance abuse counselor for the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections and the first state employee to die from COVID-19.
“Every death is a tragedy as a result of COVID-19,” said Hutchinson. “They are not just statistics, they’re real people.”
As the state’s total has risen to 1,171, 335 patients have recovered, leaving Arkansas with 836 active COVID-19 cases.
When asked about how the deaths are attributed, ADH Secretary of Health Nate Smith said if someone with COVID-19 came to a hospital and died, the death would be attributed to COVID-19, even if there were other underlying conditions.
Smith reminded everyone to abide by the directives and guidelines this weekend.
“Remember our directive against social gatherings of more than 10,” said Smith. He also asked worship services to find creative ways to celebrate together without physical contact rather that’s online, in a parking lot in your car, or with a small number of people in a very large facility where everyone has plenty of room to socially distant themselves.
“We’ve talked about the historic time in which we are encouraging churches not to meet, which is very unusual,” said Hutchinson. “We are discouraging family gatherings. This is a tough time spiritually for our state as well.”
Not only did Hutchinson mention the tough time for churches but also for high school seniors.
When asked about the caravan of cars that were drawn to Pine Bluff High School’s drive thru graduation ceremony where high school students drove on campus to pick up their cap and gown and listened to a speech given by Mayor Shirley Washington, Hutchinson response deemed he didn’t see an issue in that particular celebratory setting.
“I did make a comment the other day that the seniors are missing out on a lot and I expect families and schools to innovate a little bit,” said Hutchinson. “As long as they follow the rules I think we ought to understand that.”
Hutchinson adds a caravan of vehicles is often criticized or questioned but in other situations they are welcomed.
“You see a caravan of vehicles, for example, that are applauding health care workers and so as long as they are in their vehicle, that is a protective measure,” said Hutchinson. “They’re going through drive-thru restaurants, as long as you stay in your vehicle, you can socially distance. It’s understandable if they look for ways to celebrate their graduation.”
Hutchinson ended his press conference Friday afternoon with Minister Rex Horne to give some words of encouragement after giving an example of a family gathering in another state who got together for a funeral and later a birthday party which resulted in a COVID-19 related death.
“When Easter comes around, as we know this is a special season for several of the world’s great religions but, specifically for Christians today,” said Horne. “This year is not going to be that way. We’ve learned that we can worship through live streaming, you can have bible study through Zoom, and we’ve learned some terms like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” and things that are different to our vocabularies.”
Horne goes on to say that many people in Arkansas and throughout the world may feel abandoned, cut loose and left alone even by God because in the state, there are many people who are suffering.
“There are many that are sick. There are many that are unemployed. They are concerned financially,” said Horne. “There are emotional concerns and of course we remember those whose families are suffering grief and bereavement because of the loss of a loved one.”
Horne encouraged Arkansans saying that Sunday follows Friday and that Friday was a day of crucifixion but Sunday was a day of resurrection.
“Another word that our Lord spoke from the cross is, “It is finished” said Horne. “Let’s remember fellow Arkansans as we do our part, even with social distancing through Easter, there is another day coming and we have good days ahead.”