Gov. Asa Hutchinson took his daily coronavirus briefing to Texarkana today and broke the news that Arkansas’s three casinos will be allowed to reopen May 18.

They will be allowed to open at one-third capacity, with “stringent social distancing requirements.” The specific guidelines are to be issued by the Health Department later today or tomorrow.

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The casinos are in Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and West Memphis. All happen to be in counties  — Garland, Jefferson and Crittenden — with among the state’s higher incidences of COVID-19 cases.

Coronavirus case count

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In 24 hours, the state has added 97 new cases to 3,665. — 30 of them from prisons.  Hospitalizations up one, to 70. Deaths rose from 85 to 88.

Testing continues to increase, the governor said. He said 2,174 tests were completed Wednesday, on target to meet a goal of doing 60,000 tests in a month. He said an uptick in cases in recent days is from the increase in testing. He showed a new chart today, the progression in the number of active cases. Recoveries are outpacing the growth of new cases, he said.

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Health Director Nate Smith said he’d received praise from the head of the Centers for Disease Control for Arkansas’s experience at controlling the disease and keeping many businesses open.  He said the state was saving lives and saving the economy.

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