Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, speaking at the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith on Thursday, announced he is extending the state’s public health emergency for the COVID-19 crisis.


He also urged young people to be aware of the vulnerability to COVID-19 for those 65 and over.


Hutchinson emphasized wearing masks "is a public health issue, not a political issue."


State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said regarding preventing the spread, "It’s going to take all of us working together."


Dillaha pointed out that if the majority of Arkansans wore masks, the number of cases in the state would reduce dramatically. She also reminded those in attendance that the mask is to protect others.


The governor announced Thursday he has extended the public health emergency another 45 days. It would have expired Friday, now it is set to expire August 3. The other state of emergency was related to the civil unrest caused by protests and riots which Hutchinson ended Thursday.


Of the 11 new deaths recorded by the Arkansas Department of Health, 10 were in the age group of 65 of over, the governor reported. There are now a total of 208 deaths in the state from the COVID-19 coronavirus.


"While you might survive this very well, and not have any repercussions, but who are you communicating with and who you might expose and the vulnerabilities of those over 65 we have to keep in mind," Hutchinson said.


The state of Arkansas currently has 13,928 cumulative cases, with an increase of 322. There are only six new cases in Sebastian County for a total of 187.


With the number of hospitalizations continuing to rise, the governor stated that capacity was still manageable statewide and they were keeping an eye on hospitals at a regional level.


When asked about the plan for hospitals if they reach a capacity regionally, Hutchinson said that each hospital has a "surge plan" that would adjust procedures and patients to adapt for COVID-19 patients. The governor pointed out that due to the months of planning, all hospitals are working together statewide.