State releases details of ban on gatherings of more than 10 people

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (speaking) and Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith

As promised, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has issued a directive temporarily limiting how many people can gather in public and private places.

Hutchinson first announced the measure on Wednesday as an attempt to 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.”

From the directive:

All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are subject to the following directives and exceptions:

  • Due to the high risk of community spread of COVID-19, gatherings of more than ten (10) people in any confined indoor or outdoor space are prohibited until further notice. Gatherings subject to this directive include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure, commercial, or sporting events, concerts, conferences, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, and festivals.
  • This directive does not apply to gatherings of ten (10) or more people in unenclosed, outdoor spaces such as parks, trails, athletic fields and courts, parking lots, golf courses, and driving ranges where social distancing of at least six (6) feet can be easily achieved.
  • This directive does not apply to businesses, manufacturers, construction companies, places of worship, the Arkansas General Assembly, municipal or county governing bodies, or the judiciary; however, these entities are advised to limit person-to-person contact and maintain appropriate social distancing of at least six (6) feet to prevent the spread of this virus.
  • The Secretary of Health reserves the right to exercise his authority to prevent the spread of disease in this State if, in his judgment, any of the excluded entities are operating in a manner that is a risk to public health.

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.