LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says residents must manage the risk of the coronavirus as the state reopens during the pandemic, even as the number of cases increase.
"It doesn't diminish the seriousness in which we take it, but we have to manage the risk, grow our economy," Hutchinson told Fox News Sunday.
He also said there are currently less than 100 hospitalizations in Arkansas and a death rate that is low compared with the rest of the country.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas increased by 147 on Sunday to 5,922, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The state has reported 116 deaths.
Hutchinson also said that testing in Arkansas has expanded.
"You manage the risk by increasing the testing," Hutchinson said on Fox News Sunday. "You look at it as to whether the fact that we've lifted restrictions is one of the reasons for the increased number of cases and our answer is, we don't see a connection there."
He noted that many of the positive cases have come from the food supply industry, which is an essential service.
On Saturday Hutchinson talked about receiving a text 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."
On Sunday, he said, "I don't think we're going to say you can't invite anybody over to a pool in the backyard of your home. I think you have to exercise discipline and make sure you have the right constraints in place. And so, it's education."
Arkansas Department of Health spokeswoman Gavin Lesnick said in an email Sunday that his agency didn't have any additional details to release on the pool party Hutchinson mentioned. He said that for privacy reasons, the agency is limited on what it can say about the condition of any patient.
Lesnick also said, "Contact investigations are also likely ongoing in these cases, so it's too early to say definitively the total number of linked cases."
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
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 past week.