Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announces first reports of COVID-19 inside prison system

Coronavirus

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK)– Governor Asa Hutchinson announced there are 830 cases of COVID-19 in the state. A contributing factor in that jump was a group of positive test results at an East Arkansas federal prison. 

In just 24 hours, Hutchinson says there are 87 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the biggest single day increase in the state of Arkansas.

“The deadly nature of this virus strikes people but it’s also how highly contagious it is that gets people’s attention,” Hutchinson said.

According to Hutchinson, a big part of that uptick comes from an outbreak in a federal prison in East Arkansas.

“Fourteen of them are in the Federal Correctional Institute in Forrest City,” Hutchinson said.

According to Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith, his team is working to keep those positive cases inside that facility to a minimum. Even so, he says more cases are likely to pop up.

“Segregate those who are known positives and those who have symptoms. As you can imagine that is a little bit challenging in that setting,” Smith said.

To keep this outbreak from getting out of control, the health department called in the CDC for back up.

“They should be arriving early this week and they will be bringing laboratory support for us as well,” Smith said.

It’s a swift action state officials hope stop the spread and keep the curve below projections.

“Take every precaution to make sure that we follow the guidelines and that we do all we can to reduce that spread,” Hutchinson said.

Along with those 14 cases inside the Forrest City correctional facility, 25 to 35 more inmates and staff need to be tested. 

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