LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas hit a new peak of active coronavirus cases on Friday as businesses that had shuttered because of the pandemic continued to reopen.
Health officials said at least 5,612 people in the state have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, an increase over the 5,458 reported a day earlier. The true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The number of people who have died from COVID-19 rose to 113.
Dr. Nathaniel Smith, the state's health secretary, said 1,470 of the cases are active, which excludes people who have recovered or died. The state's previous high of active cases was 1,466 on April 25.
On Thursday, the state reported its largest single-day increase in new virus cases. The state has been rolling back coronavirus restrictions on businesses in recent days. Pools and water parks were allowed to reopen Friday, and freestanding bars can resume service on Tuesday.
Casinos, theaters, arenas and other indoor entertainment venues were allowed to reopen this week.
Hutchinson said he wanted residents to keep the state's social-distancing rules in mind as they enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend, but that he was trying to avoid being heavy-handed in enforcing the restrictions.
“We’re not a heavy police state," he said. “We rely upon complaints from citizens upon which the department of health can send out their team to inspect and make contact with. Many times it’s simply just a reminder to do the right thing.”
Stacy Hurst, secretary of Parks, Tourism and Heritage, said staff would be at state parks reminding visitors of social distancing restrictions over the weekend.
The state also announced it has approved $91 million in payments to help businesses comply with new coronavirus safety measures. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission said it had approved grants for 8,198 businesses through the Ready for Business program and the first payments had been deposited into bank accounts starting Friday.
Funded by federal coronavirus relief money, the program helps businesses pay for disinfectant, protective equipment and other expenses. Lawmakers have approved using up to $147 million in federal funds for the program.
The commission said another 4,000 applications are being reviewed again due to unresolved tax issues, potential for duplicate submission, or missing information.
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ademillo