By Ray King

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that the state’s three casino’s will be able to reopen on a limited basis May 18.

At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, which was held at Texarkana, the Governor said the casino’s, which will include the Saracen Casino Annex, will be operating at one-third of capacity and will follow strict social media guidelines.

The State Health Department will be issuing guidelines to casino operators either later in the day Thursday or Friday outlining the steps they need to take to protect their staff and patrons.

In addition to the Saracen Annex, casino’s at Hot Springs and West Memphis are involved in the governor’s announcement.

On Wednesday, 97 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, bringing the state’s total to 3,665. There are currently 70 people hospitalized and there have been 88 deaths reported.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said one of the deaths was a nursing home patient. There are 47 nursing homes statewide that have reported at least one case of COVID-19 involving either a patient or staff member. To date, 266 nursing home patients and 155 staff members have tested positive.

Smith said of the total number of cases, 710 are active and another 2,867 have recovered.

The Governor also said that the state is in Phase One of the president’s Reopening America for Business which has resulted in some businesses being allowed to reopen on a limited basis. To reach Phase Two, which will lift other restrictions, he said it’s important to make sure there’s no resurgence of the Corona virus in the next 14 days.

Barber and beauty shops have been allowed to reopen and the Governor was asked if it appeared that the operators of those shops were following guidelines from the State Health Department.

“From everything I’ve seen they support the guidelines and are following them,” he said.