Arkansas Prison Allows Some COVID-positive Staff to Work

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LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas prison staff who test positive for the coronavirus have been allowed to work at a facility where at least 876 inmates have the virus, a correction official said Tuesday.

Arkansas Division of Correction Director Dexter Payne said the agency has allowed staff who have tested positive to work at the Cummins Unit if they are asymptomatic. The staff are only allowed to work with inmates who have tested positive for the virus, he said.

Payne detailed the policy in documents filed in response to a lawsuit by inmates that accuses the prison system of not doing enough to prevent the virus’ spread.

Payne said the agency is following recommendations issued by the Health Department last month that positive, asymptomatic staff be allowed to work only if there is a critical shortage of workers.

The Health Department said an additional 100 Cummins inmates are being tested.

Health officials said the number of people in the state who have tested positive for the virus is 3,496, an increase over the 3,458 reported Monday. The number is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The number of deaths rose from 81 to 83.

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