COMPTON — Arkansas state Rep. Keith Slape (R-Compton) was the second legislator to test positive for the coronavirus since the regular General Assembly session began Jan. 11.

Slape told the House speaker Tuesday he had tested positive for the virus, House spokeswoman Cecillea Pond-Mayo said.

Slape told the Daily Times that he was recovering at home and feeling better, although there were a couple of days in which he suffered from fever, shaking and body aches much like influenza.

Slape said he didn’t have a clue where he might have contracted the virus. He said he has been all over much of the northwest quadrant of the state and, of course, in the legislative session.

Slape is at least the 23rd Arkansas state legislator to test positive for the virus since the pandemic began. Arkansas has had the second largest outbreak among state legislators, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The House and Senate convened last week with safety measures intended to prevent the virus’ spread including limits on seating, plastic barriers in both chambers and rules allowing remote voting. Both chambers have also passed rules requiring lawmakers, staff and visitors to wear masks.

The Legislature has not been in session since Thursday.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was cautiously optimistic to see a decrease in the daily number of new virus cases. Arkansas reported 1,331 new cases Tuesday and 43 more deaths.

“We have to be mindful that we’ve had some dips in the past and it surges up,” Hutchinson said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”

State Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said the state is watching closely for signs of a more easily transmissible variant of the virus, but none had been diagnosed as of Tuesday afternoon.

He stressed that the best way to avoid spread of the virus is to consistently wear a face mask, avoid crowds and wash hands often.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Arkansas has decreased by nearly 13%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Still, the state's per capita rate of 1,243.7 new cases per 100,000 people ranks fifth in the country, according to Johns Hopkins.

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