The state Department of Corrections said the system is going into “lockdown” until at least Jan. 15 because of a rise in COVID-19 among staff. This brings a halt to plans for a resumption of inmate visitation in some facilities.

The department release:

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Secretary of Corrections Solomon Graves notified Department leadership on Wednesday, December 30, that in response to a recent increase in staff COVID-19 cases, all Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities will immediately enter into lockdown status. On Tuesday, 192 DOC employees were positive for COVID-19 and on leave.  Facilities will remain locked down until at least January 15, 2021. The need for an extension will be evaluated at that time.

While locked down, all non-essential movement within facilities or between facilities will be suspended. A visitation pilot launched earlier this month at Benton Work Release, Delta Regional Unit, Northeast Arkansas Community Correction Center and Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center will be suspended. Finally, only emergency intakes of inmates will be scheduled.

“The goal of this lockdown is to lessen the impact of the increase in community cases,” Secretary Graves said. While providing an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution to staff on Tuesday, Secretary Graves reminded staff of the ‘3 Ws’ of COVID-19 response by saying, “While we wait to receive a vaccine, I want to again stress the three things we can do today to protect ourselves, our families, and our facilities and offices: WASH your hands, WEAR a mask, and WATCH your distance.” The Secretary went on to further encourage social distancing when the said, “…please follow the advice of public health professionals and limit social gatherings. This is normally a season of celebration for many of us. I am asking that you join me in making this a season of sacrifice so we can enjoy the Spring, Summer and beyond as healthy as possible.”