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Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday said he would lift the COVID-19 ban on elective procedures at Arkansas hospitals and clinics effective Monday.
“That is earlier than what we expected,” he said. “But with our hospitalizations, with the limited spread across the state, we feel comfortable with that.”
The governor said the state’s “target date” to lift several business restrictions is May 4.
Hutchinson laid out a schedule for making announcements about whether to re-open certain industries: April 29 for restaurants, April 30 for gyms, May 1 for barbershops and beauty salons and May 4 for places of worship and larger venues.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state had 2,276 total coronavirus cases, 1,371 active cases, 97 patients who are hospitalized and 42 deaths.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the lifting of the ban on elective procedures would be incremental. At first, only patients who will not require an overnight hospital stay will be seen. They can’t have COVID-19 symptoms and will be tested for the virus 48 hours before a procedure. They also can’t have had contact, over the previous two weeks, with someone who tested positive for the virus.
The state is also encouraging facilities to begin with a small volume of patients and slowly ramp that up, he said. They should also make sure they have adequate personal protective equipment for their workers, Smith said.
The governor said the state Department of Health would take the lead on lifting business restrictions and coordinate that with the economic recovery task force he announced over the weekend. Hutchinson said the task force, led by Steuart Walton, would offer industry insight to the state.