Jonesboro is likely to remain under curfew until further notice the city announced Wednesday (April 1). A curfew has been in place since an EF-3 tornado ransancked the city’s commercial district on Saturday. The curfew will start at 10 p.m. And will end at 6 a.m., Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said. It helps to stop potential looters and it aids in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Perrin stressed the need for people to stay away from each other and noted that several city employees have had to be sent home due to fever.
“There was a moment when we had to deal with the clear and present threat created by the tornado,” Perrin said. “But there is no excuse for ignoring the need for social distancing. We are screening every employee in every department to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus in this city. We have sent home employees who were running a fever. It made me realize that sometimes when you’re working, you can have a fever and not even realize it. So it’s important to run a thermometer over everyone who enters your door.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said outdoor recreation is still good, so long as it’s done while distancing. He closed state parks to overnight campers, and Jonesboro is following the governor’s lead with a similar policy at Craighead Forest Park.
“We will not allow any new campers, but current campers will be allowed to remain,” Parks Director Danny Kapales said.
Perrin reiterated that even though parks have been closed, trails will remain open only as long as residents can display responsible distancing while using them.
“I will not stop repeating that we must be keeping proper distances,” Perrin said. “I do it. I expect city employees to do it. And I expect our citizenry to do it. We are dealing with the after-effects of the tornado. But we are not out of the woods yet on this emergency.”
Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board executives were in damaged neighborhoods Wednesday, telling homeowners how to find licensed crews for cleanup and rebuilding.
Police Chief Rick Elliott said opportunists who might take advantage of tornado victims have been run out of town.
“We saw no unauthorized vendors working in the neighborhoods today, and it’s made residents feel safe,” Elliott said. “Workers have been vetted, and when people see the licensed local companies, it gives them some confidence.”
Elliott also said most streets are reopened.
“We’re down to AT&T and Suddenlink doing some last operations, and the intersection of Race and Caraway is going to require some time,” Elliott said. “But most streets are clear.”
JPD has been running 12-hour shifts but will return to regular eight-hour shifts Thursday morning. Elliott also said the Mall at Turtle Creek command post will close.
“A chain-link fence will be placed around the mall property, and mall security is in place to guard against trespassers or looters,” he said.
Arkansas State University will not hold its spring commencement celebration, but ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said that seniors that complete their course work will receive diplomas. Those who want to walk for graduation will be allowed to do so at the end of the summer, he added.
Lyon College announced that its in-person commencement ceremony will at a minimum be postponed and it may hold a virtual ceremony instead. Students will be reimbursed part of their spring semester room and board, Lyon President W. Joseph King said.
“Many of you have reached out to my office as well as other offices on campus in regard to refunds of room and board charges. I assure you Lyon College will refund a prorated amount for students’ room and board. After the Business Office clears unpaid account balances, students will be refunded the remaining prorated balance on April 17. The business office will contact students in the coming days with more information,” King said.
Perrin said though tough times remain, he looks forward to the day lives can be lived as usual.
“There is a light at the end of this,” he said. “It’s just a courage check, and we are resilient, sincere, loving people. So I have no doubt we will get through this and look back with pride in how we handled it.”