Arkansas Reports Near-Record Increase in COVID-19 Deaths

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Wednesday reported its second-highest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths so far and 649 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus that causes the illness.

The Department of Health said the 21 new deaths bring the state’s death toll to 732 since tracking of the outbreak began in March. The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 dropped by seven to 435.

The department said at least 58,023 people have tested positive for the virus, and 5,390 of those are active cases that 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.

Wednesday’s deaths are the most since Friday when the state announced 22 people died from COVID-19. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it’s going to take some time before the state is able to start paying the $300 weekly extended unemployment benefit under President Donald Trump’s executive order. The Trump administration on Tuesday approved Arkansas’ application for the unemployment benefit.

“We have a very old, antiquated unemployment (information technology) system that’s going to take some manual changes in order to get that done,” Hutchinson said. The governor said the state is also waiting for additional guidance from the federal government.

Hutchinson said the state did not plan to change its approach on testing despite U.S. health officials issuing new guidance that prompted confusion and criticism that said it was not necessary for people who don’t feel sick but have been in close contact with infected people to get tested. Hutchinson said Arkansans who have been exposed should still get tested even if they are asymptomatic. 

“That’s the safest route to take,” Hutchinson said. “If somebody has traveled, they’re worried about where they traveled and they’re asymptomatic, go get a test because that could protect your loved ones or somebody you’re going to school with or your team.”

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