Today I want to discuss the steps we have taken together to fight the coronavirus called COVID-19.
Since March 11, the day I signed the Executive Order that declared a public health emergency, our public health team has guided our response and targeted our actions to stop this virus.
I’d like to review a few of the steps we have taken. We have closed schools, bars and the state’s three casinos. We have closed restaurants except for take-out meals. We have shut down barbershops, and hair and nail salons; massage-therapy clinics and tattoo parlors. We have closed fitness centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and indoor amusement centers. We have shuttered state park lodges and prohibited camping in the park. I directed state employees to work remotely when possible, and we suggested companies allow employees to work from home. All of these actions mean people have lost their jobs, and this is so difficult to do, and it goes against everything we are trying to accomplish. But these steps are necessary in this public health emergency.
Our measures are more stringent than those in many other states. That is the reason the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arkansas is 400 fewer than our projections. If necessary, we can go farther, but the typical stay-at-home order exempts essential activities and businesses. In many states, essential activities include manufacturing, hardware stores, and legal, accounting, and insurance services. California’s executive order exempts grocery stores, farmer’s markets, convenience stores, banks, and laundromats. Every morning in California, which has one of the strictest orders in place, millions of people leave home for work.
If I initiated a stay-at-home order similar to California’s, more than 700,000 Arkansans would still get up and go to work the next morning. Thousands of others would visit hardware stores, Kroger, Walgreens, and Walmart. But there is another impact that many don’t consider. An order that shut down the state could put a couple hundred thousand people out of work.
At this time, we have not issued a stay-at-home order primarily because most people are making responsible choices. Arkansans are putting the good of the state ahead of personal convenience or comfort, and in many cases, people are sacrificing their financial security. Concert halls, sports arenas, and even churches have closed voluntarily. In theory, we could have ordered all of those places to close. But that wasn’t necessary.
Our targeted actions are working. In Arkansas, even without the stay-at-home order, the rate of growth in the number of cases has flattened. That’s not true in some states that began sheltering-in-place early on.
We’re basing our decisions on scientific data. We can’t be pressured into taking measures simply because all the other states are doing it. When we need to do more, we will. And let me assure you, we will continue to listen our public health experts.