You know things are getting back to almost-normal when the press starts asking the governor and all his people about non-virus stuff at a virus-update presser.
This past week, the state of Arkansas had a rock-solid piece of bad news. There really was no way to sugar-coat it: Between Wednesday and Thursday, the number of covid-19 cases spiked with 455 more cases, the largest increase since the state starting testing for this bug in early March.
The governor and the state's secretary of health noted that the government has been testing more, and that might have something to do with it. (Maybe a lot to do with it.) But it's hard to spin that number.
Spikes are called spikes because they tend to be abnormal. They wouldn't look like spikes on a graphic or chart if they were trends. The next 24 hours after that spike, it should be noted, the state saw an increase of only 154 cases--and another 114 people were considered to be recovered.
Dr. Nate Smith, head of this state's Department of Health, sorta kidded Friday that the state had had the biggest drop in the number of new cases so far this year from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon. To which the governor quipped, "That's a good headline." (It's doubtful we'll use it in this column.)
The number of cases will only grow in Arkansas, but pay attention to the number of "active cases" that Dr. Smith mentions at these briefings. That is, the number of cases not including those who've recovered. If the number of people in hospitals are the best way to tell the story of Arkansas' covid-19 pandemic every day, the number of recovered people should be the next chapter.
As of Friday, the number of those who have recovered from this virus surpassed 4,000.
And the number of recovered each day is creeping up on the new cases. When we get there, it will be worth remarking.
Other reactions to the week that was:
• The state has a whole team of people tracing contacts of those who've been exposed. Dr. Smith says only a handful of people interviewed after exposure have listed restaurants or gyms as having been on their list of visits. Can we assume that these handful of restaurants and gyms were closed soon after, and scrubbed from kitchen to rowing machine?
• When the guidelines came out this week on sports teams and activities, somebody said that these directives are smart, but they won't be policed. And at Friday's press conference, a reporter asked the governor how the state was going to police Memorial Day--how it was going to enforce social distancing, six-foot distances at restaurants, etc.
To which the governor replied: "In terms of how we enforce, we're not a heavy police state. We rely upon complaints from citizens [after] which the Department of Health can send out their team to inspect and make contact with--many times it's simply a reminder to do the right thing."
In other words, don't be a damfool. Although Asa Hutchinson would probably never say that publicly.
• There was a lot of discussion in Arkansas this past week because of new sports guidelines. Sports that are considered "limited contact"--baseball, track, swimming and the like--will begin sooner than "close-contact" sports such as wrestling, basketball and the King of the South, football. The state also said that cheerleading and dance are included as close-contact, as anyone who's ever watched a cheer team pyramid can attest.
But let's not forget the school bands. Those kids are expected to show up weeks before school opens in the fall, and march in the heat, sit in classrooms learning music, and do a lot of stuff that requires blowing into mouthpieces. They need guidelines (and deadlines) as well.
Have a good holiday weekend, y'all. But, as the old sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues: Hey! Let's be careful out there.
Editorial on 05/23/2020
Print Headline: Notes on a spike