For the second day in a row, Sebastian County was the fifth highest county in the state for increase in COVID-19 cases with 26 total. Washington and Benton Counties still topped the list with 96 and 45 new cases respectively.

Across the state, there were 687 new cases on Thursday. Arkansas has been listed as one of the eight highest growing number of cases and was placed on a list by New York, Connecticut and New Jersey requiring a two week quarantine for anyone traveling from those eight states.

The overall positivity rate of Arkansas is 6.5% which is lower than the 10% cap the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to see that rate even lower.

As of Thursday, there were 284 hospitalizations, another all time high, with 66 patients on a ventilator. There were two additional deaths bringing the number to 242.

Hutchinson commented that the number of new COVID-19 cases is more spread out across the state so that no one region is increasing significantly faster than the others.

Even with the spread of new cases, the seven day average is up, hospitalizations continue to rise as well as the number of active cases. Though the averages for both Benton and Washington Counties are starting to fall.

Hutchinson said that, while increased testing plays a role in the number of new cases, the number of tests per capita is not an accurate indicator because the number of people in a population getting tested depends on the demand for those tests.

Health Secretary Nate Smith took the opportunity to share that Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will be carrying out more testing events in Washington and Benton Counties to continue the targeted response to Northwest Arkansas.

During the time for questions, many brought up the fact that Hutchinson has not placed a mandate in effect for Arkansans to wear masks.

Hutchinson stated that his office is receiving calls and reports daily about restaurants not following guidelines and expressed that there would be a drastic increase if that was expanded to individuals.

The governor’s hope is that Arkansans would take the virus seriously and wear masks based on education on the importance of protecting themselves and others.