Governor defends decision not to issue shelter in place order, COVID 19 cases increase to 643

Gov. Asa Hutchinson / Screen capture

Governor Asa Hutchinson defended his decision not to issue a shelter in place or stay at home order in the state of Arkansas due to the COVID-19 pandemic in his daily press conference held Thursday afternoon.

Hutchinson said the “targeted measures” the state has already taken, including the closure of schools, restaurants and bars (with the exception of take out), closed lodges at state parks, and others, are sufficient at this time.

“Those are just a few of the measures that we have taken that actually exceed some of the measures in other states,” he said. “The result of these targeted measures that we have implemented have given us some good results.”

For the second day in a row, the governor cited the number of cases in the state tracking below initial projects for the spread of the virus developed weeks ago by state Secretary of Health Nate Smith as evidence the measures taken thus far in the state are working to help curtail the spread of the virus.

“Even with the 60 additional cases today, you will see we are over 400 less than what we were projecting at this time,” he said. “The strategy of a targeted response to this emergency virus situation in Arkansas is proven to be successful in bending the curve, lowering the apex of the curve, and reducing the number of cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas.”

A map maintained by the New York Times, and others, shows Arkansas as one of only five states without similar stay at home orders in at least a portion of the state.

Hutchinson called the map “not helpful.”

“They say we are not being effective because we don’t have a stay at home order,” he said. “This is not helpful to us because it gives people an unrealistic expectation as to what this means, first of all. Secondly, it gives the impression that we aren’t doing enough in Arkansas, and you can see by the targeted response that we are doing a great deal, and it has been having some success.”

Hutchinson added that even in states that have issued stay at home orders, various exemptions allow millions to continue to go to work. Issuing an order similar to what is in place in California here in Arkansas, he said, would continue to allow 700,000 or more people to work, but would put “a couple hundred thousand people out of jobs.”

“That’s what we measure every day is; is our targeted response sufficient, do we need to take additional measures, and when we do, we accomplish that,” he said. “We are trying to make good judgements on good public health data that is scientifically based, and that makes sense in Arkansas.”

Additional measures in state prisons

Hutchinson said one area of concern he is currently working on is the prison environment in Arkansas.

The governor said he is screening employees before work at the prisons, and discussing with them who they have been in contact with. Prison officials are also limiting movement inside the prisons, he said.

Hutchinson also said Arkansas Correction Industries have converted to begin creating “re-washable masks” to be used in the inmate population and in the guard population.

An update on the numbers

Arkansas Secretary of Health Nate Smith gave an update on the number of cases of COVID-19 currently active in the state of Arkansas.

Smith said that of the 643 cases in the state, 20 are children 18 and younger, 183 are 65 and older, and 440 are 18-64 years old.

91 healthcare workers have tested positive (up 7 from yesterday). 10 of them are are physicians, he said, 26 are nurses, 4 are CNAs, and the others are a combination of licensed and unlicensed health care workers working in facilities around the state.

51 of the individuals that have tested positive are nursing home residents. 66 people are currently hospitalized with the illness (up 10 from yesterday), 23 are on ventilators (down 2), and two additional individuals have died. 47 individuals have recovered.

Of the 12 deaths so far in the state, 8 are 65 and older, and 4 were from the 19-64 year old range.