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Gov. Hutchinson announces 1K+ increase of COVID cases, recommends Graves to lead Department of Corrections

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday afternoon there are more than 1,000 additional coronavirus cases in the state and he has recommended Solomon Graves to become the Secretary of the Department of Corrections.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 36,259 total COVID-19 cases with 386 deaths in the state, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

This is an increase of 1,013 cases and six deaths since the news conference Wednesday.

Dr. Jose Romero, acting Secretary of Health, said of the 1,013 newly-announced cases, 1,008 are in communities.

The governor said some of the newly-announced cases are due to a delay in entry.

Romero said there are currently 7,009 active cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas, with 146 in nursing homes, 869 in correctional facilities and 5,994 in the community.

The counties with the most newly-announced cases are Pulaski County (113), Washington County (76), Benton County (73), Sebastian County (65), Crittenden County (43) and Craighead County (41). The governor said numerous other counties have 25 to 30 cases.

Hutchinson said there are currently 480 people hospitalized due to the virus in Arkansas, an increase of six from Wednesday.

According to Romero, 107 people are on ventilators in Arkansas due to the coronavirus.

Romero said 28,864 people have recovered.

The governor said 5,487 tests had been completed, which was better than the previous day.

Dr. Romero said the cumulative positivity rate is at 8%.

Romero said the positivity rate is determined by dividing the number of tests on any given day from the positive tests from that day as reported. Dr. Romero said that can change over time.

Dr. Romero said visitations at nursing homes will now be determined by individual housing units.

Romero said the Department of Health will now have electronic measures to get information from coroners.

Governor Hutchinson said there are 841 active cases in the Department of Corrections and a small number of cases in county jails.

The governor said the Department of Health had lower test numbers in the last 24 hours and the commercial labs continue to struggle.

Hutchinson said the active cases in the Department of Corrections are in the Ouachita River (577), Cummins (62), Tucker (20) and Eastern Arkansas Regional Unit (14).

Director of the Division of Corrections Dexter Payne said there are also positive cases at the Wrightsville complex, Pine Bluff complex, Grimes and the NWA work release center.

According to Payne, 8,583 inmates have been tested, which is more than half of the total inmates.

Governor said the concern with the cases at the Ouachita River Unit because it includes inmates with special needs, medical issues, elders, mental health.

The governor said the Ouachita River Unit serves as the prison’s hospital facility. The governor said every male inmate is evaluated there unless the inmate is going straight to death row. According to Hutchinson, inmates that have particular health problems go to the Ouachita River Unit.

The governor said the capacity of the Ouachita River Unit is 1,900 but it has been reduved to 1,739.

State officials say all inmates at the Ouachita River Unit have been tested.

According to Payne, 103 inmates have been sent to outside hospitals since April.

According to state officials, there have been 21 inmate deaths due to the coronavirus.

There are 841 active cases in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, according to Payne.

Payne said 2,970 inmates are considered to be recovered from the virus.

State officials say inmates get two face coverings and are screened during meal times.

If approved by the board, Graves will replace Wendy Kelley, who will retire at the end of the month.

Graves has served in communications and is currently the Chief of Staff for the Department of Corrections.

Graves thanked Governor Hutchinson, his family and ADC Director Wendy Kelley.

The governor sent his best wishes to State Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who is in the hospital and has tested positive for COVID-19.

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