LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Governor Asa Hutchinson responded on Thursday to a letter from nearly 300 Arkansas doctors urging him to take additional action to fight the spread of COVID-19.
In their letter, the physicians urged Hutchinson to “enforce a universal mask mandate” and close all bars and gyms, while limiting restaurant service to takeout only.
In his response, the Republican governor gave no indication he has plans to implement additional restrictions on businesses or travel in Arkansas.
In the letter, Hutchinson lays out steps the state has already taken in March and July, closing bars and dine-in restaurants, shuttering other businesses that required close contact, and implementing a statewide mask mandate.
These businesses have since been allowed to resume operations under new guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health, Hutchinson noted in his response.
The governor also pointed to the statewide mask mandate implemented on July 16. Critics say the mandate lacks an enforcement mechanism.
“The mandate does provide a penalty up to a $500 fine after the first warning, and local law enforcement is responsible for the enforcement of this mandate,” Hutchinson wrote.
Hospitalizations due to the virus reached a new high in Arkansas on Wednesday.
In the letter to Hutchinson, the nearly 300 Arkansas doctors say they are “seeing ICUs full of COVID-19 patients.”
“Our hospitals are filling to the brim, and the virus is continuing to spread unchecked in our communities, meaning that the worse is approaching,” they wrote. “Soon we will shoot past our capacity to care for patients……Healthcare providers will become overwhelmed and burn out, as many have already. We will see COVID-19 take the lives of many Arkansans, both directly and indirectly.”
Hutchinson said in his response that he will “continue to be guided by the expertise and experience of public health officials and evaluate appropriate actions to mitigate the impact on our hospital capacity.”
Both letters are attached below:
Physicians’ Open Letter: