Governor Hutchinson defends decision not to issue stay-at-home order in Arkansas


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Governor Asa Hutchinson on Thursday defended his choice not to issue a stay-at-home order in Arkansas.

At his daily COVID-19 press conference, Hutchinson said targeted measures to close schools, restaurants & bars, lodges & state parks, hair salons, barbershops, gyms, movie theaters, and more actually exceed some efforts taken in other states.

The governor pointed out that the state has so far beat its original projections for COVID-19 cases by 400.

“You can see by the targeted response that we’ve been doing a great deal and it’s been having some success,” Hutchinson said.

The governor said such measures in other states were “illusions” and that people are still going to work for essential activities, including manufacturing.

“If I enter the stay-at-home order today, tomorrow morning over 700,000 Arkansans will get up and go to work because they’re engaged in essential industries,” he said.

“You would also put a couple hundred thousand out of jobs. The question is: are you accomplishing anything by doing that order?” Gov. Hutchinson went on to say.

The governor cited Hibbett Sports, Dillard’s and other clothing stores as examples of businesses that would be forced to close under such an order.

“People are making their own decision to stay home,” he said.

Businesses like those the governor referenced can lead to infections if someone who’s been exposed touches racks or counters, said Dr. Gary Berner, Community Clinic’s chief medical officer.

“It’s certainly a risk,” Berner said. “Pretty much anything stepping out of our homes at this point is a risk.”

Hutchinson said that a map shared by KNWA/FOX24 of states that do or do not have some form of a stay-at-home order, with Arkansas unshaded, on Thursday is “not helpful” to the state.

“It’s not helpful to us because it gives people an unrealistic expectation as to what this means, first of all, and secondly, the impact of it, it gives the impression we’re not doing as much as we should be in Arkansas,” he said. “You can see from the targeted response we’ve been doing a great deal and having some success.”

He went on to talk about the exemptions in some of the other states with stay-at-home orders, including manufacturing, banks, hardware, stores, laundry services, legal, accounting, and insurance serves.

In California, the governor says the order exempts grocery stores, farmers markets, convenience stores, and laundrymats.

“Someone expressed it as a recipe for confusion, because they aren’t exactly sure who is exempt in essential industries or not,” Governor Hutchinson said.

There are 643 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths in Arkansas as of 2:37 p.m. on Thursday, April 2.

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