Arkansas governor announces reopening dates for bars during visit to Forrest City

Gov. Asa Hutchinson visits Forrest City for coronavirus briefing -- May 18

FORREST CITY, Ark. (WMC) - Governor Asa Hutchinson visited Forrest City Monday to give an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith joined the governor for the briefing.

Last week, St. Francis County saw a dramatic uptick in cases both in the community and the federal correctional facility in Forrest City. Hutchinson said St. Francis County had the most active cases in the state.

On Saturday, 550 people were tested in Forrest City. It was “the most extensive testing in any community since this pandemic began,” said the governor.

As of Monday, there are 341 COVID-19 cases, including 252 inmates and one staff member at the Forrest City low-security facility. Three staff members also tested positive at the high-security prison.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons told WMC Actions News 5 they plan to test 100 percent of the prison population at the low-security prison. Prison officials also said the majority of positive inmates are exhibiting mild to no symptoms.

More than 4,800 people have tested positive for coronavirus across Arkansas, according to Smith, and 100 people have died.

Northeast Arkansas’s growth rate is approximately 18 percent.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve also done a lot of testing,” said Hutchinson.

The governor also announced that restaurant bars can reopen Tuesday and free-standing or stand-alone bars can reopen May 26. Specific guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health are forthcoming.

Over the weekend, Arkansas officials announced the Arkansas Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website experienced a security breach Friday. The governor says the FBI is investigating the matter.

Hutchinson will travel to Washington D.C. this week to meet with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. They’ll discuss the COVID-19 response and the food processing industry among other things.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.