Bars within restaurants will be able to open on Tuesday, while freestanding bars will be able to open one week later on May 26, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Arkansas Health Secretary Nate Smith also noted in Monday’s daily briefing the restrictions for bars will be similar to those of restaurants on occupancy limits and social distancing requirements.
"Continue to be careful in our safety restrictions," the governor added in the daily briefing, held Monday in Forrest City.
The St. Francis County city in east Arkansas recently had a spike in positive cases which lead to a targeted testing in the city.
Smith stated the goal for testing in Forrest City on Saturday was to administer 500 tests. They exceeded that and obtained a total of 550 tests. As of Monday, 24 of the 290 results have returned as a "positive."
"This is very important, for people to come out and be tested," Forrest City Mayor Cedric Williams said.
Smith agreed with the mayor. The Arkansas Department of Health needs to know who is positive for COVID-19 to make better decisions on guidelines.
Of the 2,329 tests administered in the 24 hours leading up to Monday’s briefing, the governor said there was a 2.8% positivity rate.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arkansas has had 4,813 positive cases: 1,086 were active as of Monday. Slightly more than half — 591 — of the active cases are outside of correctional facilities and nursing homes.
Over the weekend, Arkansas saw two more COVID-19 deaths. This pushed the state to the 100-deaths mark, with 77 hospitalized and 12 on ventilators.
Smith addressed the 12-person increase of hospitalizations by pointing out the number of hospitalizations runs about a week behind the positive tests. Since there was a spike about a week ago, he expected the increase of hospitalizations to follow.
Since the spike on May 13, the seven-day rolling average of new cases was down to 58 on Monday.
Smith reiterated the only limitations on hospitals is the confidence of Arkansans. All hospitals take great measures to care for the safety of both staff and patients, he said.
"We want to encourage people to get the help they need," Smith stated.