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Virus hospitalizations hit new high in state as cases rise again; Hutchinson issues new guidelines for churches

The Associated Press reports Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations have again hit a new high.

The Department of Health on Tuesday reported 24 more people were hospitalized because of COVID-19, bringing the state’s virus hospitalizations to a new high of 810.

After a surge of 75 new cases on Monday, Independence County recorded a slightly lower number of 64 new cases Tuesday, which puts the county at number five on the list of counties with the most new cases. On Monday, the county was ranked number three.

The state’s confirmed and probable virus cases rose by 1,424 to 124,235. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the trend in the state is not good, but resisted calls for new restrictions on businesses or gatherings because of the latest surge.

Arkansas has allowed restaurants, bars, and other businesses to operate but with capacity limits and other restrictions.

Worship leaders joined Hutchinson at Tuesday’s statewide coronavirus briefing to encourage other worship leaders and pastors throughout the state to strictly follow the Arkansas Department of Health guidelines of wearing masks in services and ensuring social distancing. Hutchinson emphasized he was not blaming churches for spreading the virus, but he did note that unmasked congregational singing is the primary driver of transmission in worship services. Singing produces aerosols that can increase the transmission of COVID-19.

And the governor again stressed the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, and regular washing of hands.

One other note from the Tuesday briefing: Education Secretary Johnny Keys also addressed the rumor that schools will transition to virtual learning from the Thanksgiving holiday to New Year’s. He said the state had no plans for the late-year switch.

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