Dr. Cloud said he believed he caught the virus during budget committee meetings in Little Rock on Oct. 13, 14 and 15. He wore a mask, he said, and so had “most” others. But he started feeling unwell afterward, tested positive on Oct. 18 and was later hospitalized when his oxygen levels dropped to dangerous levels.
“It’s a virus, it’s a billionth of our size, and unless somebody just completely isolates themselves, unfortunately you’re going to have some exposure,” Dr. Cloud said in an interview. His condition has improved, he said, but he still had a bad cough, and “it’ll be a couple of months before I can say I’m 100 percent.”
Senator Terry Rice and Representatives Michelle Gray and Stu Smith have also tested positive, according to legislative leaders.
Although the Senate canceled meetings last week after the first wave of cases, both houses are going ahead with committee meetings set for this week. Dr. Cloud said he would participate — virtually.
Budget hearings resumed Tuesday morning with distanced seating and remote-voting options under a new rule adopted last week, said Cecillea Pond-Mayo, a House spokeswoman. Plexiglass partitions and a mask requirement were already in place, she said.
Arkansas reported at least 21 new coronavirus deaths and 612 new cases on Monday, and has averaged 1,019 cases a day over the last week, 18 percent more than two weeks ago. Since the pandemic began, the state has reported at least 106,727 cases and 1,833 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in our state, unfortunately,” Dr. Cloud said. “Try to be as absolutely careful as you can. Don’t hesitate to seek medical care.”