The number of new COVID-19 cases spiked significantly in Arkansas on Thursday.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported 455 new COVID-19 cases today (May 21) at his daily press conference, bringing the total of cases in the state up to 5,458.
However, 229 of the new cases are in the Forrest City Federal Correctional Institution. The CDC concluded testing on Saturday and some of the results were still being reported. There are 226 new cases in the community.
“The 226 community cases are, of course, a concern,” Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said. “I need to point out, as I have before, this is not a biological phenomena…COVID-19 spreads fast, but it doesn’t spread that fast in a single day. This is largely a matter of increased testing. We have dramatically increased our testing since last month.”
There are 33 new cases in Yell County, 27 in Benton County, 26 in Washington County, 19 in Union County, 17 in Craighead County, 17 in Crittenden County, 13 in Pulaski County and 13 in Pope County.
“We are going up because of this enormous spike today, and yes this is a concern to us. We are watching it very carefully. We know that it is reflective of the increased testing that we are doing,” Hutchinson said. “But, it is also something that we want to be able to get in and do our contact tracing, make sure that we understand whether this represents a new outbreak somewhere or whether it is just a reflection of increased testing.”
The total number of active cases in the state is 1,453 with 796 in the community, 543 in correctional facilities and 94 in nursing homes. The number of hospitalizations have increased by seven, so now there are a total of 86. The death toll has also increased by three to 110. Currently, there are 3,915 considered recovered.
Within the last 24 hours, 2,616 COVID-19 tests have been conducted and had a 4.4 percent positivity rate.
The state is continuing its efforts to reach its goal of conducting 60,000 COVID-19 tests in the month of May.
Since the beginning of this week, the Arkansas Department of Health has been offering daily testing Monday through Friday at its 79 local health units across the state.
“We will be doing targeted testing like we did this past weekend in Forrest City in all these counties that have higher numbers of cases,” Smith said.