LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday the Arkansas Department of Health will issue new guidance for face coverings.
According to the new guidance, face coverings should be worn in all indoor settings where you are exposed to non-household members and physical distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured.
Face coverings should also be worn in all outdoor settings where you are exposed to non-household members unless there is space of six feet or more to create physical distancing.
The governor said it’s not a good policy to have a directive for mask wearing, and one reason is the ability to enforce.
According to the new guidance, face coverings should cover both the mouth and nose to be effective.
State officials say this is not a directive that carries a civil penalty. State officials are asking the public to follow the recommendations of the Arkansas Department of Health.
State officials say proof of face coverings working is a hair stylist in Missouri that became infected, but none of her patrons or co-workers got the infection. State officials also say Arkansas Department of Health employees have tested positive for the virus, but there hasn’t been any transmission because of mask wearing.
As of Friday, there are 14,631 total COVID-19 cases and 214 deaths in the state, according to state officials. That is an increase of 703 new cases and six deaths.
Dr. Smith said this is the second Friday in a row where there’s been more than 700 new cases. Smith thinks it might be because of the previous weekends and people letting their guard down.
According to Dr. Smith, 41 of the new cases were in correctional facilities and 662 were in the community.
The 662 community cases is the largest single-day of new community cases, according to Dr. Smith.
The governor said most of the new cases are in Washington County (136), Benton County (112), Pulaski County (53), Sevier County (44), Sebastian County (26) and Yell County (21). Hutchinson said the rest of the counties have
Dr. Smith said there are 4,705 active cases in the state. Of the active cases, Dr. Smith said 138 are from nursing homes, 675 are in correctional facilities and 3,892 are in communities.
According to Dr. Smith, 9,712 people have recovered from the virus in the state.
State officials say there are currently 231 people hospitalized in Arkansas due to the virus, which is an increase of five from Thursday.
State officials say 5,167 tests were done Thursday.
The overall positivity rate is 6.5% since the beginning of the pandemic, according to state officials.
According to state officials, there will be an additional 350 contact tracers added by money coming from the CARES Act.
Governor Hutchinson also announced Friday the CARES Act Steering Committee approved $12,127,2000 for EMS direct care worker payments.
According to the governor, $10,106,000 was approved for payments to Emergency Medical Service workers. The funds will be distributed to the employer, who in turn distributes the payments to each employee according tot he the number of hours they’ve worked.
Hutchinson said 5,053 workers are licensed as emergency medical technicians or paramedics in Arkansas and will be eligible for the payments.
Gov. Hutchinson said these payments will be for the time period of April 5, 2020 to May 30, 2020.
State officials say $2,021,200 was approved for the employer’s FICA and retirement costs associated with the payment to the employee.
The payments for Emergency Medical Service workers is $125 a week for those who worked 20 to 39 hours a week or $250 a week to those who worked more than 40 hours a week or 150 hours in a month.
The governor said the payments have to be processed through DHS before the money goes to the employers. Hutchinson warned it will take some time.
The governor also announced Friday he issued a proclamation for Juneteenth.
“It’s important to remember the mistakes of the past but celebrate freedom,” Hutchinson said.
Gov. Hutchinson also mentioned the unemployment rate dropped by 1.3% in May. According to the governor, more than 46,000 additional Arkansans employed in May. Hutchinson said the state’s unemployment rate is four points lower than the national average.
The governor said we should consider no excuse absentee voting for November if we still have a pandemic.