Arkansas governor to limit gatherings

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at a March 25 briefing

Instead of just recommending social distancing, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will soon issue a directive for people to stop gathering in numbers greater than 10.

Hutchinson gave the news during his daily coronavirus briefing, and said the new measure is a way to try and avoid shelter-in-place orders that have been issued in other parts of the country to counter the spread of COVID-19.

“I do not want to go to a shelter-in-place environment,” said Hutchinson. “So how do you avoid taking those additional steps as we’ve seen in other states? The answer is let’s all do our responsibility.”

Hutchinson said the details of the directive are still being worked out, and likely won’t be in place for at least 24 hours.

The governor said directives do carry the power of law, which means they can be enforced, but his hope is that the measure will serve more of an educational purpose.

“This is not intended to be a heavy handed part of the law,” he said, adding that the directive will give law enforcement officers the ability to tell people who are gathering in large numbers that they need to disperse.

Hutchinson said the number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas had increased to 280, up 62 from Tuesday. Of those, 13 are children, 94 are over the age of 65, and 173 are ages 19-64.

California was the first state to issue shelter-in-place mandates, and New York was quick to follow.

Several counties in Colorado have stay-at-home orders including Boulder and Denver. Those orders include the closure of all non-essential businesses, and a mandate that people may only leave their homes to buy groceries, visit the doctor, or to provide critical services for family members. While group gatherings in those counties have been banned, outdoor exercise is still allowed in non-group settings.

Kansas City also issued a city-wide stay-at-home order that went into effect Tuesday.