LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson updated the public Friday afternoon on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that former Sen. David Pryor has been released from the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to his son, former Sen. Mark Pryor.
Gov. Hutchinson had some good news to share regarding the unemployment rate explaining that it’s down again from 9.6% in May to 8% in June. The governor says that’s significantly below the national average.
After being asked about the slow response to unemployment claims, the governor said they are still having to deal with the fraud reported a few weeks ago. That’s forced them to enact a stronger verification policy that could delay individual’s claims.
The governor said he’s working with new Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero to address issues the state has been having with testing labs.
Current Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said they are working to increase the capacity at public health labs and taking a look at antigen testing, which differs from antibody and PCR testing.
Dr. Smith said Arkansas doesn’t have the level of testing or contact tracing that they would like adding that if test results are delayed, that pushes back contact tracing.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement released a new city-level analytical tool to give city leaders a way to identify cases within their municipalities.
Earlier in the week, state officials said they probably would not release the city-level tool because of concerns with HIPAA. Dr. Smith said the workaround is to not report cities with fewer than 10 cases.
Governor Hutchinson said he will talk with sheriffs across the state Friday afternoon through the sheriff’s association about the mask mandate on Thursday.
The mandate issued Thursday did state that after the first violation of the mask requirement the individual gets a warning. After the second violation, there could be a citation and/or fine.
However, the governor explained that the enforcement of this mandate is subject to local law enforcement and that it will differ between each agency as they look to see what would fit their community best.
Some state lawmakers have told Gov. Hutchinson they may meet over his mask mandate because they disagree with his executive order.
The governor understands that as we head into the weekend, people will enjoy the summer weather, but they will still need to be cautious.
“Just remember that we still have a lot of areas over Arkansas where we have community spread and to be careful,” Gov. Hutchinson said.