The Arkansas Democratic Party has reacted sharply to state Health Director Nate Smith’s acknowledgment that infected nursing home workers are allowed to work in the home with infected patients and in ways meant to prevent contact with others.

Health Department guidelines similarly allow infected prison workers to work with infected prisoners and instruct them to avoid contact with others.

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Both circumstances are said to be allowed to deal with critical staff shortages.

A Democratic Party release:

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Arkansas Department of Health guidelines are telling nursing homes they may send staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 back to work. State Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith told reporters on Tuesday that some nursing homes are facing “critical shortages” of staff, and are being advised to allow asymptomatic employees to enter the workplace with certain guidelines.

“It’s heartbreaking to learn that our state is sending in COVID-infected staff to take care of our seniors in nursing homes. It is a sad testament about the state of elder care in Arkansas, and the low-wages and lack of support given to the employees who take care of our loved ones,” said DPA Chairman Michael John Gray. “I don’t blame anyone for wanting to make sure our seniors are taken care of, and making sure nursing homes are adequately staffed. But surely Arkansas can do better than this, it’s about priorities.”