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Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted some COVID-19 restrictions on large outdoor venues on Monday and said he would lift some restrictions on large indoor venues on May 18.
He also revised his COVID-19 guidance on places of worship on Monday.
A separate directive for casinos will be issued at a later date, Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said. He and the governor said they would likely reopen around the same time as other large indoor venues.
The state is directing all venues to:
- Keep performers and their audiences 12 feet apart.
- Limit performers/players/contestants to 50.
- Limit audiences to 50.
- Keep every other row unoccupied.
- Mark and monitor lines.
- Have everyone over 10 who is not a performer wear face coverings.
Refreshments are allowed, but self-service is prohibited. Team sports are still banned.
Arkansas is asking churches to:
- Continue to use online platforms.
- Have everyone wear face coverings, with the exception of children under 10, worship leaders addressing their congregations and singers who are performing.
- Have the individuals who are not wearing face coverings stay 12 feet from others.
- Have people “meet and greet” outside and only serve refreshments outside.
- Not use items touched by multiple people, such as shared books or collection plates.
- Prevent lines from forming.
- Refrain from having people come forward to a common area for services like a communion or blessing.
- Not hold youth classes or offer child care.
Churches and all venues are being asked to make hand sanitizer available at entrances/exits, sanitize common areas and to have individuals who are not in the same family group sit or stand 6 feet apart.
The churches are being asked to not allow entry to people with symptoms or people who have had recent contact with a coronavirus patient. The venues are being directed to put up signs to that effect.
Hutchinson said, for the places of worship, guidance rather than a directive has been and is being issued. A directive, by contrast, has the force of law behind it.
Issuing guidance instead of a directive recognizes the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment, the governor said.
He also thanked churches for following the state’s guidance thus far. “They welcome this, but, at the same time, I think many of them will proceed cautiously,” Hutchinson said of the revised guidance.
The state has recorded 3,458 coronavirus cases, and 91 patients are currently hospitalized. Eighty-one Arkansans have died from the virus; 2,016 have recovered.