By Ray King

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that an additional 121 people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, with 27 of them residing in St. Francis County, which is the home of the Federal Correctional Institute.

The federal prison, located at Forrest City, has already reported that a number of detainees and staff members tested positive and the Governor said the cases in that county were not the result of a relaxations over the past several days but rather “inadequate testing by the C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control) of the prison staff.”

“At Cummins we tested everybody,” Hutchinson said.

State Health Director Dr. Nate Smith said he was concerned about the outbreak in St. Francis County and “encouraged all the workers at F.C.I. (Federal Correctional Institute to get tested, both for their safety and the safety of their family.

Asked about totals in other counties, particularly in light of the total in St. Francis County, Smith said the next largest number in the state was in Pulaski County which reported 12 new cases. “That’s not much of a percentage increase there,” he said.

Regarding Cummins Prison, Smith said three new cases were reported there, bringing to 900 the number of inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19.

There are currently 4,164 cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 849 of them considered active.

Of the new cases, 100 came from the community and the remaining 21 from correctional facilities.  A total of 59 people have been hospitalized and there have been 95 deaths.

The Governor said he would announce a decision on May 18 as to when bars and nightclubs might be able to reopen and what restrictions will be placed on them. A similar announcement regarding summer camps and team sports will be made May 20.