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Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday said Arkansas’ targeted response to the COVID-19 pandemic is working, and he addressed concerns about the state being the only one in the South that hasn’t issued a stay-at-home order.
Hutchinson said Arkansas already has 400 fewer COVID-19 cases than it was projected to have by now.
“So the strategy of a targeted response to this emergency virus situation in Arkansas is proven to be successful in bending the curve, lowering the apex of the curve and reducing the number of cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.
Looking at a chart showing states that have issued orders, partial orders, or no orders, he continued, “This is not helpful to us because it gives people an unrealistic expectation as to what this means, first of all, and secondly, the impact of it. It gives the impression that we’re really not doing as much as we should be in Arkansas when you can see from the targeted response we are doing a great deal and it has been having some success.”
The governor emphasized that many stay-at-home orders lead to confusion because, in most, “essential” workers are exempt so that people are still going to work for manufacturers, banks, hardware stores, laundry service providers, legal firms, accounting firms and insurance agencies.
Even in California, which has a stricter order in place, people who work at farmers markets, grocery stores, convenience stores, banks and laundromats are not staying home, he said.
Hutchinson said that if he signed a stay-at-home order modeled after other states’ orders, 700,000 or more Arkansas would still go to work on Friday because they work in essential industries. And still others would shop at grocery stores.
But at least 100,000 more Arkansans would find themselves filing unemployment claims.
On a state and national scale, unemployment claims are higher than he’s seen them be in his lifetime, the governor said. He expects that trend to continue, with more filings in the next two weeks than were filed in the past two weeks.
“I’m an optimist, and I do believe that the foundation of our economy is strong,” he said. “And as soon as we get through this virus, and this emergency, we’re going to come back in a very robust fashion. That’s why we’ve got to shorten it, but the economic news is not good, and that’s why we consider this not just a health crisis but an economic crisis.”
If he were to issue a stay-at-home order Thursday, the businesses that would close include Dillard’s, sporting goods and clothes stores, the governor said, though stores like those are already taking precautions such as limiting the number of customers allowed inside their buildings.
Hutchinson also said his administration is re-evaluating its targeted approach to the pandemic on a daily basis.
In other news, state officials announced that Arkansas now has 643 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths. Sixty-six patients are hospitalized, and 47 people have recovered.
In addition, prison employees are being screened, movement within prisons is being limited, visiting inmates is prohibited for now, and inmates are making reusable cloth masks for use by inmates and guards.
The governor also said there is a “practical moratorium” on evictions because the courts are closed and notices are not being served, and many tenants and landlords are working together to amicably resolve coronavirus-caused rent payment delays.