Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor, ADH Secretary discuss outbreaks in federal and state prisons


LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Monday afternoon that there are 1,410 cases of the coronavirus in the state with 30 deaths due to complications of the coronavirus.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said of the 1,410 cumulative cases, 989 of them are active.

Dr. Smith said the increase of 130 cases between Sunday and Monday afternoon is the largest increase of cases in one day.

Dr. Smith said the Department of Health received 1,030 test reports over the last 24 hours. Of those tests, 883 were from commercial labs, which had a positivity rating of 2.9 percent. UAMS had a 5.7 percent positivity rating. The Department of Health Public Labs had 94 tests, with a 71 percent positivity rating because 67 of those tests were from the Cummins or other congregate or incarcerated settings.

Of the cumulative cases, 193 are healthcare workers. Fifty-eight of those healthcare workers have recovered.

Seventy-four people are hospitalized due to the virus, according to state officials. Twenty-eight are on a ventilator, according to Dr. Smith.

The governor said the number of newly-admitted COVID-19 patients has steadly gone down.

The governor also said Monday that the total number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital peaked at 85 on April 11, and has been steady and on a slight decline since.

The governor said a projection from the University of Washington has increased the time from the peak of cases to April 29.

Jackson County was added to the list of counties with cases on Monday.

The governor and Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), also spoke about an outbreak in the Cummins Maximum Security Unit. Both state officials say the outbreak is in one barrack, where 43 of the 46 inmates tested positive to the virus. No staff members have tested positive, according to state officials. Dr. Smith said one inmate had been hospitalized, but he was not sure of the inmate’s condition. Dr. Smith said the Department of Health will test staff and sampling inmates from other barracks. Dr. Smith said the challenges in a congregate facility is that some people may be positive, but may show no or mild symptoms. State officials are making sure staff and inmates at the prison do not go from one barracks to another.

Dr. Smith also said at the Federal Correctional Institutional in Forrest City, 46 inmates, 8 staff and one contractor have tested positive for the virus. According to Dr. Smith, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield said the CDC will take the lead on this investigation. Dr. Smith said the CDC has recommended using a risk-based testing strategy, which has not been fully figured out yet. Dr. Smith said the group from the CDC that visited the Forrest City prison left over the weekend, and Governor Hutchinson said the state has asked for the CDC to come back and help with testing.

Dr. Smith also said over the last couple of weeks, 27 staff and five out of 15 inmates have tested positive for the virus at a Little Rock Community Correction facility.

According to Smith, there is also a smaller drug rehab treatment facility in central Arkansas where 15 residents and five staff have tested positive.

Dr. Smith also announced Monday that ADH will be sending guidance on summer camps.

Governor Hutchinson said Monday it’s not time to let up on social distancing, limiting group gatherings or wearing masks when you cannot social distance. The governor said the state is not at the point of re-opening yet.

The governor also announced the creation of the Medical Advisory Board for COVID-19 Post-Peak. Dr. Smith will chair the board, and the other seven members will be announced at a later time.

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