By Ray King

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has lifted the restriction that prohibited out-of-state travelers from coming to the state for recreational purposes.

At his daily press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor said people who come from known hot spots, New York, New Jersey and New Orleans in particular will still be barred and State Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith will have authority to readjust those spots as needed.

Stacy Hurst, the state Secretary of Heritage, Parks and Tourism said the change will also affect lodging at state parks which had also been prohibited from accepting out-of-state recreational travelers.

The Governor also announced that he is extending his emergency declaration for an additional 45 days.

In his daily report, Hutchinson said an additional 38 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 3,496. Of those, 1,364 are active cases. Four of the new cases are from Cummins Prison.

A total of 89 people are hospitalized and there have been 83 deaths.

Smith said 876 inmates at Cummins have tested positive for COVID-19 and health department officials are currently testing about 100 inmates assigned to two other barracks at the prison. At the Federal Correctional Institute at Forrest City, there are now 264 inmates and 92 staff members who have tested positive.

Asked about those numbers at Forrest City, Hutchinson said the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the C.D.C. federal (Centers for Disease Control) are finally doing what state officials had asked them to do in terms of testing of inmates and staff.

He also predicted a spike in cases at both prisons as more testing is done.

Smith said health department officials are currently working with 45 nursing homes where at least one case of COVID-19 has been reported. There are 261 patients and 148 staff members at those nursing home who have tested positive and 32 residents have died.