As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the Southern United States, the governor of one of the states which has paused its reopening efforts said Sunday that testing for the virus needs to increase exponentially, and lobbied for President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to manufacture the supplies necessary to meet the demand for such efforts.
“We’ve doubled the amount of our testing nationally. We’ve got to double it again. That is probably the most important thing that we can do,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “I really think we need to look at a greater use of the Defense Production Act so that we can make sure that supply keeps up with the demand that we know is going to continue growing.”
In Arkansas, the number of coronavirus cases rose steadily throughout the month of June, leading Hutchinson to halt the state’s reopening plans this week — becoming one of at least 10 states that have stopped or reversed their plans amid increasing numbers.
“We’re clearly on pause here in the state in terms of moving to lift further restrictions until we’re comfortable with where we are in controlling the spread,” Hutchinson said Thursday, as the state topped 10,000 coronavirus cases for the month of June.
Earlier in the week however, the governor claimed in a PBS interview that reopenings were not to blame for the increase.
“We actually measure it every week … in terms of the new cases that we have — are they related to the fact that we opened up, lifted some of the restrictions?” Hutchinson said, three days before announcing the “pause.” “And the answer is that we have not seen a correlation between lifting restrictions and the new cases that we have. The new cases actually are coming out of some of the essential industries that are open regardless.”
On Saturday, the United States as a whole surpassed 2.5 million total positive cases of COVID-19 and 125,000 deaths from the virus, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.
Hutchinson has also sought additional guidance from the federal government, delivering a veiled criticism of the White House in an MSNBC interview Friday.
“A consistent national message supporting the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing is very important to making sure everybody understands the importance of it,” Hutchinson said in response to a question about whether it would be easier to convey individuals to wear a mask if the president led by example. “Nothing beats leadership. Certainly it’s important to convey the importance of that.”
This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.