Hutchinson slams lawsuit curtailing the state’s emergency orders; surge in new cases as students return to college

Featured image: Gov. Asa Hutchinson at Thursday afternoon’s statewide briefing on the pandemic

At Thursday’s statewide COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Asa Hutchinson criticized a lawsuit filed that morning by a group of state legislators and citizens who say the state’s emergency orders need to be lifted and future emergency orders should be approved by the General Assembly — even though the legislature has already authorized the governor and the Arkansas Department of Health to oversee such health emergencies.

Hutchinson balked at the suit’s intentions, saying an ending of the emergency order would alter such programs as Telemedicine, virtual learning, quick accreditation of medical personnel, and more.

The governor also said the legislative process of initiating and moving such emergency orders through the General Assembly would delay any quick response in a health crisis.

Hutchinson noted that any change would be putting such critical health decisions in the hands of legislators, many of whom are not medical experts, instead of the Arkansas Department of Health.

The governor and Health Director Dr. Jose Romero said Thursday saw a surge in new cases — 969 within the past 24 hours vs. 615 new cases from Wednesday’s briefing. Part of the surge can be attributed to the return of students to college campuses. Washington County, the home of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, was the county with the largest number of new cases — 211 — and 80 percent were in the age range of 18 to 25. Romero noted universities are driving the new cases.

The governor stressed college students must still adhere to social distancing guidelines through the Labor Day holiday. And Education Secretary Johnny Keys said while the number of positive cases connected to Arkansas schools has not been as large as some expected, there are instances of a few districts having to move certain schools online due to the number of staff and students being quarantined.

Other bullet points from Thursday’s briefing:

  • Over 7,000 were tested within the past 24 hours.
  • There have been a total of 20 new deaths, with nine connected to nursing homes. The statewide death toll is now 861.
  • With Thursday’s report of 969 new cases, the statewide total is now just over 60,000.
    Hospitalizations are down 10 with a total of 425 currently being treated in a hospital.
  • The number of recovered cases stands at 55,505.

To view today’s briefing, click below.

White River Now News Team

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