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LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday the creation of a task force to help the state recover economically from restrictions that were put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The task force will be led by Steuart Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Walmart is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The group will focus on helping small businesses because “that’s where we want to be able to get back to work,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.
During the pandemic, the governor did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order but imposed other restrictions that closed businesses such as gyms and casinos. He also prohibited sit-down service at restaurants and bars.
On Friday, Hutchinson said he hoped to lift some restrictions imposed on businesses during the pandemic if Arkansas meets the criteria in a three-phase plan laid out Thursday by the Trump administration for states to reopen their economies.
The task force, which will include representatives from retail, agriculture and churches, will work to “put this economy in higher gear, but to do it in a way that’s consistent with public health requirements and that gives the public confidence,” Hutchinson said.
The task force will hold its first meeting next week.
State health officials reported Saturday that one more person has died in Arkansas after contracting the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 38. Another 44 residents have tested positive for the virus as the total number of cases reached at least 1,739.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Members of the Governor’s Task Force
- Steuart Walton, Runway Group (Chair)
- Wes Ward, Department of Agriculture
- Mike Preston, Department of Commerce
- Stacy Hurst, Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
- Ted Thomas, Public Service Commission
- Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
- Sylvester Smith, National Federation of Independent Business
- Joey Dean, Associated General Contractors of Arkansas
- Annemarie Jazic, Dillard’s Inc.
- Charlie Spakes, Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association
- Montine McNulty, Arkansas Hospitality Association
- Kelly Eichler, Indoor Recreational Facilities
- Deke Whitbeck, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation
- Lance Taylor, Arkansas Activities Association
- Hunter Yurachek, University of Arkansas
- Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association
- Charles Frazier, Rock Region METRO
- Lorrie Trogden, Arkansas Bankers Association
- Dr. Sonny Tucker, Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention
- Bishop Gary Mueller, Arkansas Conference of United Methodists
- Bishop Michael Mitchell, African Methodist Episcopal Church 12th District
- Dr. Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
- Andy Goodman, Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities
- Andrea Henderson, Arkansas Association of Community Colleges
- Dr. Chuck Welch, Arkansas State University System
- David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society
- Bo Ryall, Arkansas Hospital Association
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