With over 30 states in the U.S. implementing "stay-at-home" orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arkansas is in the minority of states without one. However, Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a targeted approach is currently a better way for the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking live on the public radio program 1A Thursday morning, Hutchinson said targeting and closing businesses and other areas that pose a threat of coronavirus exposure is working for Arkansas at the moment.
"When we see a problem, we take very specific directed action. And this is in contrast to, if you look at the, what they call a 'stay at home order' in some other states, there’s no such thing across the country," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said the number of exemptions allowed during a stay-at-home order, such as trips to the grocery store or to go outside for some exercise lessens the restrictions of the order itself.
"People are misled by this idea that this 'stay at home' order is magical because there are so many exceptions to it in every state that it drives the rule" Hutchinson said.
Of its surrounding states, Arkansas is the only one with no shelter in place order in any part of the state. While Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas also do not have statewide orders, several counties and cities in each state have issued such directives. Though Arkansas does not have a statewide "stay at home" order, the state has closed schools, dine-in options at restaurants and other non-essential businesses.
The city of Little Rock has issued a curfew from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. as well as day curfews for juveniles. Hutchinson says he has been in consistent communication with Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on the actions the city is taking.
"I applaud him for that. We have talked about it every day. Yesterday I closed some hiking trails that people weren't following the social distancing guidelines. He’s going to mirror that with some of the restrictions in his city," Hutchinson said.
When asked how he knows his approach to stopping the spread of the coronavirus is working, Hutchinson said according to the projections health experts have provided him, Arkansas is doing better than earlier estimates.
"Right now our cases are 400 less than what the projections were two weeks ago. And so that’s what I mean by flattening the curve and it’s because we’re taking the right steps and if we need to take more steps we will do that," Hutchinson said.
One action Hutchinson took on Wednesday was closing some popular state park trails like the Cedar Falls Trail in Petit Jean, as well as only allowing days visits to all state parks. Hutchinson also recommended the closure of the Buffalo National River.
"If they’re coming from New York or New Orleans, that impacts us. And so we had 60% of our travelers coming to our national park just earlier this week, from out of state. And that’s one of the reasons I recommended closing that," Hutchinson said.
The Buffalo National River posted Thursday it is closing until further notice.