By Ray King

According to Governor Asa Hutchinson, 130 new cases of COVID-19 were reported between Sunday and Monday, bringing the current total to 1,410.

At his daily press conference Monday, the governor said of those new cases, 98 were reported in either the Federal Correctional Institute at Forrest City and the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Hutchinson said 43 of 46 inmates in one barracks at Cummins tested positive for COVID-19 and 55 inmates, staff and one independent contractor also tested positive at Forrest City.

He said corrections officials at Cummins are making sure that the prisoners in that one barracks do not mix with inmates from other barracks and that they get proper medical treatment. In addition, prisoners and staff have been given face masks made by correctional industries.

Asked about the federal correctional facility, the Governor said it is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the state cannot dictate how they handle the situation.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said there have also been 27 staff and five of 15 detainees at the Little Rock Correctional Center who tested positive and at a drug treatment facility in central Arkansas, 15 residents and nine staff tested positive.

Those positive tests occurred previously.

He said the 130 new cases reported represents the largest single number over a 24-hour period, with 1,030 tests conducted. Of those, commercial labs conducted 883 tests and 2.9 percent were positive. The University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS) conducted 53 tests with a positive rate of 5.5 percent while the State Health Department conducted 94 tests with a 71 percent positive rate. Most of those tests were on what Smith designated as “high risk” individuals such as prison inmates.

Hutchinson said 30 deaths have currently been reported in the state, and 74 people are hospitalized.

He said that there is no indication that the state has reached its peak and hope that happens sooner than later but in the meantime, the goal is still to reduce the increase of new cases that are reported on a daily basis, and increase the number of people who have recovered.

“It’s not the time to let up, to decrease intensity,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve got to continue social distancing, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and wear face masks when you can’t safely social distance.”

Asked about comments from President Trump about the country opening up, the Governor said “We can’t change the direction we are going right now, despite the national conversation.”

He said he is looking to the future, when the state is able to open back up and has appointed a Medical Advisory Board Post Peak to provide guidance and criteria about how to avoid another outbreak.