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Arkansas COVID-19 Spread Above Projection As Cases Grow In Jails, Prisons

Governor's Office

The coronavirus continues to spread in Arkansas correctional facilities as the state sees another triple-digit increase in new cases.

According to the state Health Department, the state saw 595 new cases Tuesday bringing the total to 16,678, while 10 more Arkansans died from COVID-19 for a total of 237 deaths.

Speaking in Mountain Home Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is preparing for a “worst-case scenario” projected by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in which the state has as many as 133,000 active COVID-19 cases by next fall.

“The statistical models are predicted to continue along the current trajectory peaking in late September, early October… our goal is to change the trajectory,” Hutchinson said. “You do it by what the Department of Health is doing so well, along with the CDC, and doing a massive amounts of testing, we do our contact tracing and then we do our isolation, and we break up those strains of transmission.”

Credit Governor's Office / YouTube
A graph compares the number of actual COVID-19 cases in Arkansas with projections from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Arkansas continues to see record numbers of both active cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, with 5,221 active cases and 248 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday. Hutchinson said the state’s healthcare system can cope with an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations, which, according to projections by UAMS, could reach as many as 3,300 by next fall.

“There's a great partnership among the hospitals so that we're able to share resources. We have a good inventory and so if there is a surge need in one area of the state we’re able to deploy those assets to there and provide additional resources,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the state continues to procure ventilators for the state’s hospitals. Currently the state has just over 2,500 hospital beds available as well as roughly 220 ICU beds.

Credit Governor's Office / YouTube
A graph shows the number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas.

Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said the Health Department is still uncertain whether the Memorial Day holiday resulted in higher case numbers, but warned Arkansans to exercise caution on Independence Day.

“If we have learned absolutely nothing from Memorial Day then probably we will see the same thing. I think we collectively as a nation, a state, have seen what can happen and we don't want that to repeat,” Smith said. “And I think we all know the things that we need to do to protect each other, so I hope that we don't do the same things and have the same results.”

Tuesday’s increase of 595 new cases includes 212 inmates of correctional facilities, primarily at the Benton County Jail and the Ouachita River Unit state prison in Malvern. A total of 188 detainees and 13 staff of the Benton County Jail have been infected, as have 128 inmates of the Ouachita River Unit.

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