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After recoveries, new cases uncovered at Cummins lockup

by John Moritz | June 25, 2020 at 12:25 p.m.
This file photo, shows a sign for the Arkansas Department of Correction's Cummins Unit prison in Varner, Ark.

An additional group of inmates at Arkansas’ Cummins Unit have tested positive for covid-19, a prison spokeswoman confirmed Thursday, weeks after cases at the prison farm peaked at over 900 and officials began to consider inmates there recovered.

The Health Department added 30 additional cases to its tally at the Cummins Unit on Tuesday, bringing the total there to 993. Cindy Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, said there were 41 active cases at the unit on Thursday.

Officials had not recorded a new case of the virus at the prison since June 1, according to Health Department records.

The source of the new infections was not immediately known, Murphy said. As the virus began to engulf the prison in early April, officials quarantined prisoners who had been exposed or who tested positive. Still, more than half of the prisoners at the unit tested positive before cases stopped increasing earlier this month.

Since then, active cases fell under Health Department guidelines which classify prisoners as “recovered” two weeks after they first test positive. At the Cummins Unit, 11 inmates died after contracting covid-19 and the rest were considered recovered prior to the new cases being identified Tuesday.

No new cases have been reported among staff at the prison since June 1, according to the Health Department.

Murphy said that several inmates began showing symptoms last week, prompting officials to conduct additional testing and placing the new cases under quarantine.

“We feel like we have things under control,” she said Thursday.

Beyond the Cummins Unit, outbreaks of the virus are ongoing at the East Arkansas Regional Unit, the Ouachita River Unit and the Wrightsville Unit as well as two county jails in Northwest Arkansas.

The majority of prisoners are considered recovered at a federal prison in Forrest City and at the Randall L. Williams Unit, a state prison.


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