By Ray King

Bars that are associated with or located in restaurants will be permitted to open Tuesday while free-standing bars will have to wait a week, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

At his daily COVID-19 press briefing Monday, the Governor said free-standing bars will be allowed to open May 26 and when they do, every retail establishment in the state will be allowed to be open, although restrictions such as social distancing, personal protection and crowd size will remain in effect.

The Governor conducted the Monday briefing in Forrest City and reported that 54 new cases were reported between Sunday and Monday, bringing the state’s total to 4,813. One of the new cases was in a correctional setting and the remaining 53 in various communities across the state.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said 12 additional hospitalizations were reported, bringing the total now to 77. He explained that hospitalizations generally lag behind reported cases and there was an uptick in reported cases last week. Two additional deaths were reported, increasing the number who have died as a result of COVID-19 to 100.

Hutchinson also talked about testing, specifically at Forrest City where several hundred inmates at the Federal Correctional Institute tested positive for COVID-19 in April. On Saturday, 550 people at Forrest City were tested and while all the results have not been reported, a total of 290 are in and of those, 24 tested positive for COVID-19.

Smith said there are currently 1,065 active cases of COVID-19. Of those, 378 are in correctional facilities, 91 in nursing homes and the remaining 591 in communities.

The Governor said he will be in Washington Wednesday where he will meet with the President and Vice-President on the pandemic.