By Ray King

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson took to the road for the second time in a week Monday to conduct his daily COVID-19 press briefing, this time from El Dorado.

State Representative Matthew Shephard, who was elected Speaker of the House recently and is from El Dorado, said he invited the Governor to come after Murphy Oil, which is based in El Dorado, announced they would be moving their corporate headquarters to Houston, Texas.

Shephard said that despite that move, Murphy USA, which has over 600 employees, is remaining in El Dorado and the El Dorado Promise, which guaranteed a college scholarship to any student who graduated from El Dorado High School will continue.

The Governor was in Texarkana last week

“When the pandemic hit us, we had to deal with a health crisis and a crisis to the economy,” Hutchinson said. “For the last 45 days we have been dealing with both of them and Arkansas is in a good position, one of the better positions of any of the states to do a quick turnaround of the economy. We will miss Murphy Oil, but they will always have a connection to Arkansas.”

Over the weekend, 59 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, bringing the state’s total to 4,043. Of those, State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said six of the new cases are from the Federal Correctional Facility in Forrest City. Smith said there are currently 803 active cases, 278 of them from correctional facilities, another 86 from nursing homes, and the remaining 439 from the community.

Sixty-one people remain hospitalized and there have been 94 deaths reported.

Smith also reported on cases involving correctional facilities and nursing homes, saying that a total of 289 residents and 172 workers at 49 nursing homes have tested positive for COVID-19. No new cases have been reported at Cummins prison while there are 332 inmates and 16 staff members at the Federal Correctional Institute.

Hutchinson said he was “distressed” at some of the things he had seen over the weekend, particularly in terms of social distancing.

“I don’t want to single out one but 90 percent of the businesses (set an example) for customers,” Hutchinson said.

Asked about a concert that is currently scheduled in Fort Smith Friday, he said it will violate a directive the state has put out about crowds and promoters have submitted a plan (to the health department) which “is insufficient.”

Promoters of that concert have said  they will allow just over 200 people into the facility which has seating room for about 1,000.