COVID-19 cases rise in federal and state prisons; Gov. Hutchinson says it’s ‘not the time to let up’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 867 views 

The number of COVID-19 cases rose by 130 cases between Sunday and Monday, with a majority of new cases being at the federal prison in Forrest City and the Cummins Maximum Prison in Gould. The new cases marked the largest single-day increase during the ongoing outbreak.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during Monday’s (April 13) daily COVID-19 press conference there are 55 new positive cases in the federal prison and 43 new cases reported at Cummins.

COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 1,410 as of Monday afternoon, up from 1,280 on Sunday. Of the total number of cases, 989 are active cases, with the remainder accounting for deaths and recoveries. The number of deaths rose to 30 deaths. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 74 on Monday, up from 68 on Sunday. As of Monday at 1 p.m., there were 560,891 U.S. cases and 22,861 deaths. Globally, there were 1,883,119 cases and 117,569 deaths.

Of the COVID-19 patients in Arkansas, 28 were on ventilators and the number of healthcare workers with COVID-19 was 193.

Gov. Hutchinson said officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been asked to return to Forrest City to monitor and manage the problem there. At Cummins, the 43 who tested positive were in a barracks of 46 inmates. The state is focused on more testing at the facility, isolating those who test positive, and ensuring infected inmates receive medical treatment.

The governor also said Arkansas’ projected “peak” of COVID-19 cases continues to be pushed ahead because measures to contain the virus spread have helped slow the growth.

“There is not any indication that we have reached the peak yet. We’re hoping that the peak comes sooner versus later. But I’ll remind you that as you flatten, and that’s what we’ve done, as you flatten the number of cases that you have and reduce the increase, then you’re going to extend the peak time period, which is the objective that we’ve had,” he said.

He also noted “a number of references” on national news networks over the weekend about opening up the economy, but urged Arkansans to not let the “national conversation” cause them to think they can relax in terms of observing social distancing rules, wearing face masks and other precautions.

“I want to caution that we can not change the direction we’re going at the present time. Now is not the time to let up,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “I want to keep us going in this same direction because you can see that we’re still going up in the trend line, we have flattened the rate, we have decreased the growth rate, but we’re not there yet.”

Gov. Hutchinson also announced the creation of a medical advisory board for COVID-19 post-peak analysis and recommendations. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith will chair the panel. Duties of the panel, according to Gov. Hutchinson, will include methods to avoid resurgence, develop new mitigation efforts and look at improvements in the response system.

Following are members of the committee.
• Dr. Nate Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)
• Dr. Jose Romero – ADH Chief Medical Officer and Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)/Arkansas Children’s Hospital
• Dr. Naveen Patil – ADH Medical Director for Infectious Disease
• Dr. Jennifer Dillaha – ADH State Epidemiologist
• Dr. Austin Porter – ADH Deputy Chief Science Officer and Assistant Professor at the UAMS College of Public Health
• Dr. Greg Bledsoe – Surgeon General of Arkansas
• Dr. Jerrilyn Jones – ADH Medical Director for Preparedness and Response and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at UAMS
• Dr. Sam Greenfield – ADH Medical Director for Family Health and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAMS
The committee will provide its first briefing to the governor later this week.

The committee will provide its first briefing to Gov. Hutchinson later this week.