Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an additional 699 new cases of the coronavirus in the state on Monday in his regular COVID-19 briefing at the State Capitol. Arkansas has now recorded 33,927 cumulative cases of the coronavirus, of which 5,953 are currently active in communities around the state.

Dr. Jose Romero, in his first day as Interim Secretary of Health, said an additional 18 hospitalizations were recorded since Sunday for a total of 471. Of the hospitalized patients, 111 are on ventilators, an increase of six since Sunday. An additional six deaths have been recorded since Sunday for a total of 363. As of Monday, 26,397 Arkansans have recovered from COVID-19.

Washington and Pulaski Counties led the way in new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while nine other counties also recorded more than twenty cases of the virus. Faulkner County recorded 21, just above the state’s elevated case benchmark of 20.

The state is far below meeting its July testing goal of completing 200,000 tests, having completed 5,689 tests since Sunday for a total of 112,646 tests this month. The governor said meeting the state’s original goal would be difficult, but he hopes the state will complete at least 180,000 tests. Of the new tests, one-third of them were completed at the Arkansas Department of Health’s Public Health Lab, while the rest were divided between the University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences and commercial testing labs. The state’s current positivity rate in new tests is at 9.6 percent, just below the CDC threshold of 10 percent.

Despite the higher positivity rates in new tests, the governor said he wouldn’t factor in that data in deciding if he should delay the start of school next month. He said the state still plans to go ahead with their school reopening plans.

As the state’s mask mandate went into effect Monday, the governor announced that he authorized the deployment of 10 National Guard troops to assist in case management at Washington Regional Medical Center in Northwest Arkansas. He said he was prepared to consider additional requests for National Guard assistance if asked.

The governor also announced the state’s plan to use over $8 million in federal CARES Act funding to increase utility assistance to low-income Arkansans. Previously, the state could only provide up to $500 of utility assistance to Arkansans struggling to pay electricity bills. Now, the limit of assistance has been raised to $1,500. The new program will begin on July 27.

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