Arkansas State Representative Tests Positive for Coronavirus

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LITTLE ROCK — A member of the Arkansas House said Wednesday he’s tested positive for the coronavirus and state health officials reported two more people have died from the outbreak.

The Arkansas Department of Health said the number of cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, had risen to at least 584 from 523 a day earlier. The two deaths bring the total in Arkansas to 10.

LAWMAKER TESTS POSITIVE

State Rep. Reginald Murdock is the first Arkansas legislator to test positive for the coronavirus. He said he’s in isolation at his Marianna home and doesn’t currently have any symptoms. Murdock said he underwent testing on Monday.

Arkansas lawmakers met last week for a marathon session and approved a $173 million fund for the coronavirus outbreak. The House met at a 5,600-seat basketball arena instead of the Capitol, with members spaced out in the stands at least six feet (1.83 meters) apart. Murdock attended two of the three days of the session.

Dr. Nathaniel Smith, the state health secretary, said he didn’t believe there was a significant risk to other legislators given the restrictions put in place. But he’s recommended they get tested and self-isolate if they develop any symptoms.

“It just reinforces the importance of what they did, the steps that they took,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, referring to the restrictions the House took.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The Arkansas Senate met at the Capitol during last week’s session, but with limits on how many members could be on the floor. Legislative leaders have not said how they’ll approach the session set to begin April 8.

STATE PARK RESTRICTIONS

Hutchinson said Arkansas is placing new temporary restrictions on its state parks after seeing a large number of crowds in them during the outbreak.

Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst said the moves will include prohibiting overnight use of the parks and closing some trails.

Hutchinson said he’s also asked the federal government to temporarily close the Buffalo National River park, which has also seen an influx of tourists.

PRISON WORKER TESTS POSITIVE

The state Department of Corrections said a farm worker at one of its prisons tested positive for coronavirus. Spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the employee at the Cummins Unit tested positive over the weekend and has not been at work for more than a week.

Tyler said the employee did not work inside the prison and did not have any up-close, direct contact with inmates.

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