By Ray King

More than 600 inmates at Cummins Prison near Grady have tested positive for the Corona virus, according to state Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith.

During the governor’s daily press update on COVOD-19, Smith said most of those who have been test did not show symptoms of the disease and were younger and in better health that typical victims of the virus which so far has caused 42 deaths in the state.

Governor Hutchinson reported that there were an additional 142 cases of COVID-19 reported between Sunday and Monday, bringing the state’s total to 1,923. Of those new cases, 117 were from Cummins.

Smith said health officials have learned from the way that the disease can spread rapidly, noting that in the first case at Cummins, 43 of 46 inmates in one barracks tested positive. He also said that by determining who in the prison population has been exposed and who has not been exposed the state can direct the movements of those who are exposed to reduce the risk of exposure to other inmates and staff.

Hutchinson and Smith also responded to a question asking when grandparents can have physical contact with grandchildren again. The Governor, who said he has six grandchildren, said his contacts so far have involved social distancing and said that would continue for a while.

Smith said physical contact between those groups was actually figured in Phase 3 of the plan to bring the county back to semi-normal but right now, because of their age, grandparents probably fit into the category of those most at risk while children, particularly young children are highly likely to spread the disease because they don’t do well with physical distancing and do not wash their hands as often as they should.

The governor also talked about his goal of lifting some of the current restrictions on May 4, specifically mentioning the restriction on elective surgeries and said the post-COVID-19 economic group he appointed last week will meet for the first time Tuesday and may offer other recommendations for letting some people go back to work and improve the economy.

He also said that if the state sees a spike in cases after some restrictions are lifted, those restrictions can be re-instituted.

“We’re fighting the virus every day,” the Governor said. “But don’t assume that things like wearing a mask and social distancing and avoiding large groups is going to go away. We’re going to keep those in place.”