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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks to reporters at the state Capitol in Little Rock on Thursday in this still of video provided by the governor's office.

Arkansas recorded 687 new cases of covid-19 Thursday, including 168 new cases in correctional facilities, according to state health officials.

Two more Arkansans also died of the virus, bringing the toll to 242, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said.

The total number of active cases as of Thursday was 5,695, Smith said. Of those, 104 cases were in nursing homes, 841 were in correctional facilities and 4,750 were in the general population.

Hospitalizations again reached a new high Thursday, 284, and Smith said 66 people were on ventilators.

So far 12,127 people have recovered from the virus.

Of the new cases Thursday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Washington County saw 96, Benton County saw 45, Pulaski County saw 44, Lonoke saw 26 — concentrated at a training center — and Sebastian County saw 26. All other counties saw fewer than 20, according to the governor.

Hutchinson presented charts Thursday showing new cases in Benton and Washington counties beginning to plateau.

He said this offers “hope” that the strategy of increased testing and outreach combined with people taking personal responsibility to social distance and wear masks can slow the spread of covid-19. He added he hopes the trend line will not just plateau but begin consistently going down.

Hutchinson also showed the rate of testing in Washington and Benton counties compared to the state overall. In Benton County, more than 1,200 per 10,0000 residents have been tested, a rate higher than the statewide rate of roughly 925 per 10,000 residents.

In Washington County, though, just over 600 per 10,000 residents had been tested, despite producing the highest number of new cases many days in recent weeks, according to the governor.

Hutchinson said the state would be looking deeper into why fewer people were being tested there but said it may be in part because of language and cultural barriers among minority populations.

He said people may also fear being charged for a test.

Local health units in all Arkansas counties do not charge anything out-of-pocket for covid-19 tests, according to the state Department of Health, though insurance will be billed if patients have coverage.

EARLIER:

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state health officials will provide an update on Arkansas' covid-19 response at 1:30 p.m. Check back to watch the live video.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg0IgenjK4U]

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