Arkansas breaks record COVID-19 daily case count with 4,978

December 30, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state recorded its highest one-day count of confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began Thursday amid an omicron-fueled surge in the virus across the country.

Arkansas reported 4,978 new cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus, surpassing the previous high of 4,304 on Jan. 1.

Hutchinson said the rate of virus tests coming back positive also hit a record high at nearly one in five. He said he’s directed the state health department to acquire 1.5 million test kits to be distributed with the help of the Arkansas National Guard in public places, such as libraries and local health clinics.

The Republican urged people to be vaccinated and cautious in gathering on New Year’s Eve, including by wearing masks. He did not announce any new restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the virus and rejected the idea of imposing a state-wide mask mandate.

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Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Arkansas have risen in recent days but remain well below their peak set in late summer during the surge of the Delta variant of the virus. Hutchinson said the increase in patients is nonetheless straining the state’s medical resources.

”They are stressed in the hospitals,” he said. “Once again there are staff challenges.”

On Wednesday, an Arkansas judge struck down a state law that prevents schools and other governmental entities from requiring face masks. Hutchinson said state schools will continue in-class instruction in 2022.