By Ray King

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Saturday said as businesses around the state open up, he hopes shoppers will spend money while follow social distancing restrictions and wearing masks.

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Speaking at his daily Corona virus press conference, the Governor was asked about two malls in Little Rock that announced they were reopening.

“We didn’t close the malls and retail shops,” Hutchinson said, adding that many retail stores closed because of a lack of demand because of fears of exposure to the Corona virus, and consumers will have to get over their fear and regain confidence in going out.

“I’m proud of the shop owners who have taken measures to protect themselves and their customers,” he said.

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Ad additional 51 cases of the Corona virus were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the state total to 3,372. Of those, 1,312 are active cases. A total of 1,987 people were listed as having recovered,

Nine additional deaths were reported, two of those were inmates from Cummins prison who were in their 60’s and had been hospitalized for several days. Another six deaths were patients who had been in nursing homes and, according to State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith, had not been properly classified before.

Smith said a total of 28 nursing home patients have died during from Corona virus with cases reported in 40 separate facilities.

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He said 51 new cases have been reported at the Federal Correctional Facility in Forrest City, bringing the total there to 135 inmates and 13 staff or private contractors.

Asked for more information about the two inmates who died, the Governor said they were both in the Maximum Security unit at Cummins and were either serving life sentences, sentences for violent crimes or had disciplinary issues. He also said the Department of Corrections has currently released 380 inmates who were within six months of their parole eligibility date and who had not been convicted of a sex crime or violent crime in order to have space to isolate inmates in the event COVID-19 develops at another prison.

On Thursday, the Governor announced that barber and beauty shops, tattoo parlors and related businesses would be able to reopen May 6 but barber and beauty schools would not. Saturday, Smith said that restriction was being lifted and the schools would be able to open as long as they met the other requirements.

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On Monday, the Governor will announce guidelines for large gatherings and houses of worship.