By Ray King

Visits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities which have been halted since the outbreak of the Corona virus in March will be allowed to resume on July 1, with certain restrictions.

During his daily COVID-19 update, Governor Asa Hutchinson said the State Departments of Health and Human Services and members of the Arkansas Health Care Association have worked together to create the guidelines, which will include the facility having completed testing and meet the criteria established by the Health Department.

Some of the facilities may not be ready to open for visitors on July 1 but will be able to do so when the criteria are met. The guidelines suggest outdoor visitation if possible, or a space away from the room where the patient lives.

Visitors will be screened and required to wear masks and there will be the visits will be scheduled to avoid crowds.

Hutchinson said if cases of COVID-19 are discovered after visitation resumes, the facility will have to shut down until patients or staff have recovered.

In his daily update, Hutchinson said there were 415 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours bringing the state total to 13,606. Of those, 4,413 are considered active.

Currently there are 217 people hospitalized and there have been 197 deaths.

The highest number of cases in the state was reported in Washington County with 90, followed by Benton County with 81. Lee County reported 24 cases and there were 21 reported in Pulaski County.

Hutchinson was asked about an ordinance adopted by the Fayetteville City Council that requires the wearing of a mask when out in public and said he understood the action but would prefer that other cities not follow suit. He continued by saying that his program of dealing with COVID-19 has relied on voluntary compliance with executive orders like social distancing and wearing a mask in certain situations like going to a restaurant or barber shop.