A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of inmates including Cummins unit, which the Governor said he had received prior to the press conference.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at Tuesday afternoon’s press conference Arkansas is facing a challenge when it comes to testing. Arkansas now has 2,227 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases with 1,375 of those cases active.
The number of positive cases increased by 304 in the last 24 hours with 262 cases coming out of Cummins Prison. During Monday’s press conference it was reported that with about 1,200 inmates, approximately 600 were positive with three hospitalized.
“There’s going to be more new cases in Cummins,” said Hutchinson. “We are doing that level of testing because it is critical for the health and safety of the inmates that are there, also the staff as well as the community.”
A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of inmates including Cummins unit, which the Governor said he had received prior to the press conference.
In a release from the NAACP it states prisoners, including the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, are disproportionately black and have significantly higher rates of serious medical conditions, like heart disease, respiratory illness, and diabetes that make them especially vulnerable to severe illness or death from the virus.
According to the release, state officials have worsened these risks by failing to take essential measures to ensure social distancing, safe and sanitary conditions, and ready access to hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment.
The class action complaint, made available to the Pine Bluff Commercial and other news media outlets said despite the availability of the CDC Guidance since March 23, 2020, defendants have utterly failed to comply with these guidelines through both their official policies and the actual practices of corrections in the prisons.
It goes on to read that plaintiff’s’ personal experiences demonstrates defendant’s complete disregard for their health and safety during the crisis of this pandemic. The complaint also claims the plaintiff’s continue to physically interact with well over a hundred people each day, often without Personal Protection Equipment or ready access to hygiene products.
According to the complaint, correction officers and prisoners serving meals often do not properly use masks and gloves.
According to Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith Cummins now has a total of 670 inmates as of 10 p.m. Monday. Smith says they have completed the testing of inmates but all the results are not in.
Smith also added that at least 10 staff members tested positive and they are still testing staff.
Hutchinson said the prison setting is an ideal setting to control an outbreak because the movement is restricted and that negative inmates were separated from those who tested positive.
In order to increase testing in the state of Arkansas, Hutchinson has signed an executive order creating a advisory group to develop a strategy to ensure that the state is equipped to continue adequate testing for COVID-19.
According to the order, the group will examine the state’s supply of testing equipment and capabilities and make any recommendations necessary to maintain adequate testing capabilities and conduct surveillance testing across the state.
“This is something that I have acknowledged from day one that we have to do more testing,” said Hutchinson who acknowledged that only 1% of Arkansans had been tested. “We need to continue to grow not just what we do in terms of contact tracing capability for testing but also in terms of surveillance where we can see where we are more broadly in the population in Arkansas.”
Hutchinson reference a chart that showed Jefferson County’s positive COVID-19 cases by specimen collection date.
“Our height was 12 new cases in March, since then the cases have been more steady and of course in the last few days you can see this is fewer than two,” said Hutchinson as he viewed Jefferson County’s numbers. “The last three days, fewer than two in Jefferson County.”
Of the 1,375 cases:
86 hospitalizations (7 newly hospitalized)
27 on ventilators
249 healthcare workers
135 nursing home residents
29 nursing homes with active investigations
4 new nursing home workers (one from Waters of White Hall)
809 recoveries