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Arkansas prisons lockdown amid record coronavirus case count

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
Cummins Prison in southeast Arkansas, seen here on April 19, 2017, is among state facilities that are on lockdown for at least two weeks.

Arkansas prisons are going into lockdown for at least two weeks because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases among staff and prisoners, the state Department of Corrections announced Friday.

State prisons are prohibiting visits and “limiting non-essential movement within and between facilities” until Jan. 14, the agency said in a Facebook post. After that, prison leaders will assess whether the lockdown should be extended.

Prisons and jails have been hotbeds for the spread of the coronavirus throughout the pandemic, and the announcement in Arkansas came after the state saw a record-breaking tally of new infections driven by the omicron variant.

On Thursday, the state reported its highest one-day count of confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, 4,978, and said nearly one in five virus tests had come back positive.

Hospitalizations have remained well below their peak set in late summer during the surge of the Delta variant.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed the state health department to acquire 1.5 million test kits to be distributed with the help of the Arkansas National Guard in public places, such as libraries and local health clinics.