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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson waits to speak at his last daily coronavirus update Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Mena. He cautioned against overreacting to that day's sudden jump in cases, setting what was then a record of 1,180 new coronavirus cases in Arkansas. More photos at arkansasonline.com/912gov/. - Photo by Stephen Swofford

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 702 new covid-19 cases Saturday, the lowest increase since Nov. 2 and less than half the increase of the previous day.

In a tweet Saturday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the lower number was expected. Health Department officials attributed the daily drop to labs that were closed on Christmas Day, rather than pandemic improvements.

Only 7,707 new polymerase chain reaction test results were added Saturday, down from 14,019 on Friday. Rapid antigen test results dropped from 1,263 to 697.

The tally of deaths increased by three, to 3,441. The daily increase, which was reported the day after Christmas, was the lowest since the zero coronavirus deaths reported on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving.

The total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began climbed from 213,267 to 213,969. Of those, 188,213 cases, or slightly more than seven of every eight Arkansans diagnosed with the coronavirus, are considered recovered.

The number of coronavirus cases had risen Friday by 2,122, while the number of deaths had risen by 32. Thursday’s increase in cases — 3,204 — set the daily record in Arkansas. Deaths that day increased by 30.

Also Saturday, emergency medical service personnel received their initial doses of covid-19 vaccine at local health units in Arkadelphia and Star City.

Read more details in Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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