The big announcement during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Friday press briefing was that community pools and splash pads would be able to reopen on May 22.


Pools and other water parks will open with limitation of 50% capacity and the requirement for patrons to keep 6 feet apart. Lifeguards will receive extra training to maintain these guidelines.


On Friday, there were 82 more positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) for a total of 3,747 positive tests in Arkansas, 691 of which were active. With 64 hospitalized and 14 on ventilators, the numbers were on the decline. There were no more deaths announced and the total remained 88.


For the second day in a row, Arkansas carried out more than 2,000 tests and maintained a positivity rate of about 6%. That rate is the 14th lowest in the country and well below the ideal rate of 10% set by the World Health Organization (WHO).


According to the charts of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the seven-day average reached a plateau level and the number of active cases remained on the decline.


With new regulations to test all incoming patients in hospitals and expectant moms in delivery wards, Hutchinson said he hoped to reach the goal of 60,000 tests in May. This is 2% of the the state’s population.


These tests will also be subsidized by the Arkansas Department of Health mobile health lab going to minority areas to provide testing to those who have limited access.


Elective surgeries


Arkansas Health Secretary Nate Smith said Friday that Arkansas will enter the next stage of elective surgery. This will allow hospitals to have inpatient surgeries where the patient is expected to recover from surgery within 48 hours.


A key to containing COVID-19 is contact tracing, and there has been concern across the country about the lack of contact tracers available.


Smith stated Arkansas has 200 trained tracers with a goal to have 350.


"It’s more than just warm bodies," Smith said.


With the right training and equipment, Smith said he believed ADH will be able to have digital solutions and convert it to actionable information. He stated that their current team would be able to train new tracers to be at the same level.


Stuart Walton, leader of the Arkansas Economy Task Force, announced the website for the Arkansas Ready for Business initiative at arkansasready.com. The website will be updated on a regular basis for resources related to the reopening of the state.


Walton also emphasized the state is still in Phase 1 of reopening and residents must continue to practice social distancing.