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Arkansas governor aims to lift some virus restrictions May 4

April 17, 2020 GMT
In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 photo, Keith Davis, left, and his friend Jakia Hart, left, wait outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock, Ark. The pair said they were there because of COVID-19 related layoffs. The centers offer unemployment insurance, employment assistance and assistance for needy families, with over 30 such centers around the state.. (John Sykes Jr./The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 photo, Keith Davis, left, and his friend Jakia Hart, left, wait outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock, Ark. The pair said they were there because of COVID-19 related layoffs. The centers offer unemployment insurance, employment assistance and assistance for needy families, with over 30 such centers around the state.. (John Sykes Jr./The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 photo, Keith Davis, left, and his friend Jakia Hart, left, wait outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock, Ark. The pair said they were there because of COVID-19 related layoffs. The centers offer unemployment insurance, employment assistance and assistance for needy families, with over 30 such centers around the state.. (John Sykes Jr./The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 photo, Keith Davis, left, and his friend Jakia Hart, left, wait outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock, Ark. The pair said they were there because of COVID-19 related layoffs. The centers offer unemployment insurance, employment assistance and assistance for needy families, with over 30 such centers around the state.. (John Sykes Jr./The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 photo, Keith Davis, left, and his friend Jakia Hart, left, wait outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock, Ark. The pair said they were there because of COVID-19 related layoffs. The centers offer unemployment insurance, employment assistance and assistance for needy families, with over 30 such centers around the state.. (John Sykes Jr./The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas could start lifting restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic on May 4, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday.

Health officials meanwhile revealed that COVID-19 infections at a state prison have almost tripled, and the number of people infected in the state increased to at least 1,695 people.

MAY 4 TARGET SET

Hutchinson said he hoped to lift some restrictions if Arkansas meets the criteria in a three-phase plan laid out Thursday by the Trump administration for states to reopen their economies.

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“This is a start, and we need everybody’s help to meet that goal,” Hutchinson said. The governor did not specify which restrictions he hoped to lift first.

The governor did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order but imposed other restrictions that closed businesses such as gyms and casinos. He also prohibited sit-down service at restaurants and bars.

Hutchinson said the state meets some of the criteria for lifting some limits, but that the daily count of new cases must go down and the state must increase its capacity for testing.

Hutchinson said Thursday that one of his priorities for lifting limits is reopening hospitals for elective surgeries. A report from an advisory board he formed to look at the criteria for lifting the limits said restaurants and other indoor venues should consider how they can operate under strict social distancing rules.

“We will do it based upon what’s unique here and the response of industry, the response of the public and the public health decisions we’re advised to make,” he said.

STATE PRISON CASES MULTIPLY

State Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith said the number of cases at the Cummins Unit had spiked from 46 inmates to 129.

Not all of the new inmate infections were included in the state’s totals announced Friday because some hadn’t been entered into the state’s database yet, Smith said.

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.

The state announced its first cases at the prison earlier this week, but those inmates were confined to one barracks.

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“We know there had been inmates transferred out to other barracks before the first case was identified, so we’ve done testing in other barracks,” he said. Smith said about 300 inmates have been tested at the prison.

Seven inmates also tested positive at a federal prison in Forrest City, bringing the total there to 57, Smith said. Three inmates became infected at a community correction facility in Little Rock, bringing the total there to 62.

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Check out more of the AP’s coronavirus coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak