In a National Public Radio interview, Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended his decision to not declare a shelter-in-place order in Arkansas.
Appearing on the nationally broadcast program 1A, the Arkansas governor said he still believes that a targeted approach to closures is better than a widespread stay-at-home order because he sees people following social distancing guidelines overall.
“When we see a problem, we take very specific, directed action,” Hutchinson said. “This is in contrast to what they call a ‘stay-at-home order’ in some other states, there’s no such thing across the country. Because when you tell them to stay at home, you’re allowing them to go to the grocery store, they can get their essential items. If they’re working, they can go to their manufacturing facility. They can go outside and get exercise. A targeted approach is what is working for us in Arkansas. 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.”
Arkansas is one of five states to not have some form of shelter-in-place order in effect. The other states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.
A shelter-in-place order and stay-at-home order are often used interchangeably. In short, sheltering in place means staying at home. It is a directive from the government that people should stay in their homes unless they need to leave for essential activities, such as grocery shopping, medical care or going to work. Usually, citizens are allowed to also go for walks or exercise as long as they maintain social distancing. When enacted, the order can result in a fine or imprisonment for violators.
Arkansas has reported 625 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning. Fifty-six citizens are currently hospitalized for the disease and there have been 10 deaths.
Hutchinson rattled off a laundry list of preventative measures already taken, including school closures, restaurant and bar closings, closed parks, and other steps to curtail gatherings. He said he would do more if citizens didn’t adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.
“If we have to do that, we will,” he said. “All you’re really accomplishing [with stay-at-home orders] is a very narrow sliver of businesses that you’re going to prohibit in the retail sector… The broad brush, I don’t think, is as effective as the targeted approach.”
Hutchinson said he is following guidance from the health experts at the state and federal level and for now, because he sees Arkansas cases not progressing as rapidly as projected, he will hold off taking more dramatic steps until he’s advised differently.
“If the experts say so, we will,” he said.