COVID-19

Rapidly-rising COVID-19 infection rates have inculcated Arkansas officials with the desire to slow spread of the potentially-deadly virus.

The Arkansas Department of Health on Thursday reported 2,238 new COVID-19 cases statewide – a new single-day record. About 900 people among the 16,988 active cases are hospitalized, with 146 requiring breathing assistance from a ventilator.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson directed the ADH to issue an order that bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell alcohol to close at 11 p.m. beginning Friday and effective through January 3.

Hutchinson said the decision was a recommendation of the COVID-19 Winter Task Force that he formed last week. The governor also set a news conference for 2:30 p.m. Friday, where he is expected to announce measures dealing with medical facility staffing shortages, and the statewide coordination of bed space for critical COVID-19 patients.

Reports indicate that intensive care units around the state are filling with COVID-19 victims, adding pressure on hospitals that also need to treat patients with normal rates of heart disease, stroke, injuries and other medical emergencies.

Early in the crisis, the state ordered a pause to elective surgeries and other procedures to make room for a wave of COVID-19 patients that didn’t materialize. Now, a bigger wave is expected to crash into emergency rooms before Thanksgiving.

One week ago, a total of 805 Arkansans were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 116 were on ventilators. On Thursday, hospitalizations were up to 899 and ventilator use was at 146.

At least 20 Arkansans have died daily through this past work week. On Thursday, the death toll was 22, for a total of 2,297.

Columbia County’s experience mirrored conditions elsewhere in Arkansas.

On Thursday, a total of 929 county residents were confirmed COVID-19 cases, compared with 839 a week ago. Active cases stood at 101, up from 73 a week ago. Recoveries were up as well, from 744 last week to 805 today. The death toll has risen by one, to 23.

Gov. Hutchinson said the bar and restaurant curfew is “a balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state.”

The curfew doesn’t apply to casinos, and it will have no impact on many restaurants that usually close before 11 p.m. nightly.

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