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Governor Considers Tighter Event Rules As Virus Cases Spike

2 min read

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas set a new record one-day increase in coronavirus cases on Thursday as Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’s looking at requiring state approval for smaller indoor events.

Arkansas’ confirmed and probable virus cases increased by 2,789 to 164,310, according to the state Department of Health. Thursday’s one-day increase was the biggest the state has seen since it reported 2,348 new cases on Thanksgiving. 

The state’s COVID-19 deaths rose by 33 to 2,555.

Hutchinson, who has resisted calls to close bars or further scale back restaurants’ capacity, said the state may reduce the size of indoor gatherings that would require state approval. Under the state’s current coronavirus restrictions, indoor events with more than 100 people expected must have a plan approved beforehand by the state. 

“We want to look at where cases are coming from and what we can do about it,” Hutchinson said at a news briefing. Hutchinson said the state has recently seen a drop in requests to hold larger indoor events.

The governor also announced that the state is requesting the Federal Emergency Management Administration allocate the state 10 beds from the Veterans Administration hospital in Little Rock to help with the surge surge in virus cases.

Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations, after four days of hitting new record highs, decreased on Thursday by 16 to 1,072. 

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson, in a series of tweets, warned about the potential strain his hospital and others around the state face as the surge in cases continue. 

“We are at a crossroads, working hard to stretch our resources to keep patients alive while at the same time discussing possible locations for a temporary morgue when ours is full, as it was this past weekend,” he wrote.

Another Arkansas state senator on Thursday also said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week, the 14th lawmaker in the state to be infected over the past two months.

Republican Sen. Ron Caldwell said he tested positive for the virus on Friday and has been isolating at home. Caldwell said his wife, who also tested positive, has been hospitalized since Friday. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported on Caldwell testing positive.

Arkansas has had the second largest known outbreak in a state legislature, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. More than 200 state legislators nationwide have tested positive for the virus. The only legislators in Arkansas known to have tested positive before the latest outbreak were three who caught it in the spring and a fourth who caught it in July.

GOP lawmakers in states where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged have rejected statewide mask mandates and rules requiring them in their own capitols. A proposal last month to require Arkansas state senators to wear masks or risk losing their per diem faced resistance in the Republican-run Senate.

(All contents © copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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