Arkansas prisons shut down amid record number of coronavirus cases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas prisons will be closed for at least two weeks due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases among staff and prisoners, the State Department of Corrections said on Friday.

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

Prisons and prisons have been hotspots for the coronavirus to spread throughout the pandemic, and the announcement in Arkansas came after the state saw a record number of new infections caused by the omicron variant.

On Thursday, the state reported its highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a day since the start of the pandemic, 4,978, and said nearly one in five viral tests came back positive.

Hospitalizations remained well below their peak set at the end of the summer during the Delta Variant wave.

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

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