Arkansas' count of active covid-19 cases rose to approach 9,000 on Sunday, setting a record for the fifth day in a row, as the state reported 644 new virus cases.
Confirmed and probable active cases of covid-19, where the individuals have neither recovered nor died, stood at 8,904 as of Sunday, an increase of 94 compared with the previous day.
The state's count of active cases surpassed 8,000 for the first time on Wednesday and has increased on every subsequent day.
In an interview on Sunday, state epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said a large number of new covid-19 cases creates a lag in terms of the active cases because newly reported cases remain active for at least the next several days.
Individuals with mild to moderate symptoms usually remain in isolation for 10 days, she said; once they are cleared from isolation, they are removed from the list of active cases. Other individuals may remain in isolation for a longer period of time.
"It doesn't mean they've fully recovered because many people have lasting effects from this virus that takes them a long time to really get well," Dillaha said.
The tally of new covid-19 cases on Sunday was the lowest since the previous Sunday. Arkansas has frequently experienced lower single-day case numbers over the weekend, only to see case numbers rise again during the latter part of the next week, making it difficult to predict whether a brief decline in cases will be sustained long-term.
Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 529 were classified as confirmed based on polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test results, and the remaining 115 were classified as probable.
The death toll in Arkansas increased to 1,704 because of 20 newly reported deaths, all but one of them among confirmed cases, according to the Department of Health.
Over 1,000 new confirmed and probable cases were reported on three days last week, including Thursday, when the state reported a single-day record of 1,278 new cases.
On Sunday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote on Twitter that while Arkansas has seen single-day cases trend down over "the last few days, it will likely trend back up next week."
Hutchinson added, "Next week's cases will depend upon our activity over the weekend. I am grateful for everyone being diligent & safe."
The cumulative number of infections in the state since the start of the pandemic increased to 99,066 on Sunday.
Metrics tracking the number of patients suffering from covid-19 in medical facilities remained essentially flat.
The number of patients hospitalized because of the virus fell by four, to 572. The number of patients on ventilators increased by three, to 97.
Of the new confirmed cases reported on Sunday, 29 were tied to correctional facilities, according to the Department of Health.
Results from 8,973 PCR tests and 275 rapid antigen tests were reported on Saturday.
Health officials in the state have received results from more than 171,400 PCR tests and more than 21,300 antigen tests so far during the month of October.
An additional 444 individuals were classified by the Department of Health as having recovered from the virus after a confirmed test result, for a total of 84,175 recoveries among confirmed cases.
Asked about the gulf between the extent of closures and business restrictions now versus in the spring, when Arkansas' reported cases and hospitalizations were much lower by comparison, Dillaha acknowledged that "many people have let their guards down with regard to this virus."
"They're not social distancing. They're not wearing masks when they go out in public and they're gathering in places that are at high risk for transmission. And they've lost their sense of caution," she said. "And I think that is of great concern, and we need to find a way to regain the caution without having to shut everything down again."