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LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas on Tuesday reported a new one-day record increase in deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus, as the state’s virus cases surpassed 40,000.
The Department of Health reported 20 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total fatalities to 428. The state’s health secretary said six of those deaths were late reports and didn’t occur within the last 24 hours.
The state’s hospitalizations also climbed to a new high, increasing by 12 to 501.
“These are not good numbers,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Whenever we’ve gone over the 40,000 mark cumulative in terms of our total cases, whenever we’ve gone over 500 in our hospitalizations, these are both high-water numbers for us and of course having an increase of 20 in terms of our deaths is not good news as well.
The state reported 734 new confirmed cases of the virus since Monday, bringing the total to 40,181. The department said 6,565 of those cases are active, meaning they don’t include people who have died or recovered.
The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Before Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase in the state since the pandemic began was 12 deaths reported on July 17.
Arkansas’ virus cases have grown steadily since May, when the state began allowing businesses closed because of the pandemic to reopen.
The numbers prompted Hutchinson earlier this month to sign an order requiring masks to be worn in public, though some law enforcement agencies have said they won’t enforce the mandate.
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 vast majority of people recover.
Lawmakers on Tuesday also approved a plan to spend $7 million in federal funds for contact tracing, testing and case coordination for the region’s Hispanic and Marshallese populations. The plan was blocked in a legislative hearing on Friday following objections from some lawmakers who questioned why the money couldn’t come from funds already set aside for contact tracing efforts.
Hutchinson over the weekend had urged lawmakers to reconsider and approve the funding, citing recommendations from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention to do more to stop the virus’ spread in those communities.
The Arkansas Legislative Council approved the plan after also approving spending $16 million for hundreds of contact tracers around the state.
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