ARKANSAS PRISON EMERGENCY

Arkansas allows employees who test positive for COVID-19 to continue working in the state’s prisons.

Despite warnings from health experts about the dangers of asymptomatic transmissions, Arkansas prison officials are permitting some staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working.

In a court document filed Monday on behalf of 11 state prisoners, attorneys allege that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC) is allowing employees who are confirmed to have the disease to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic and wear a face mask.

The document was filed as part of a federal lawsuit over inadequate protective conditions within the state’s prisons. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed the policy, which was first reported Monday by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

In an email, spokesperson Solomon Graves provided state health department guidelines from April 15 that say staff members can return to work in places where there is a “critical shortage of workers and critical activities cannot occur without the use of these workers.”

Employees are only allowed to work at facilities where prisoners have tested positive, according to the guidelines. Currently, there is one facility—the Cummins Unit—that meets this criteria.

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