After his call with the president and other governors on Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson shared the first phase of reopening the state during his press briefing on Friday.


Hutchinson started his daily briefing on Friday by honoring Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. Thacker was a native of Fort Smith and the first on the USS Theodore Roosevelt to die of COVID-19.


According to the governor, the president presented a multi-phase structure to reopening of states’ economies. In order to reach the first phase, there had to be a decrease in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases for two weeks as well as treating all hospitalizations.


Even in this first phase of reopening, people will still have to maintain a maximum distance from one another as well as limit gatherings to ten people or less when possible. This phase would also require at-risk individuals to remain in place and everyone to minimize non-essential travel.


For employers, working from home would still be encouraged and people would be allowed to return to work gradually.


Restaurants would be allowed to open and large venues, such as churches and sporting events, would be able to resume under specific social distancing guidelines.


Each state will be able to adjust as needed when deciding to relax restrictions. Hutchinson stated that this was helpful because it gave him guidelines as well as flexibility.


Hutchinson stated that Arkansas was not at that stage yet, as cases continue to rise. As of Friday’s briefing, there were 75 new virus cases for a total of 1,695 with 1,063 active. There were 93 hospitalizations with no new deaths. As of Friday, there were 23 patients on ventilators.


The governor showed a graph that depicted the positive percentage of tests compared to the surrounding states. Arkansas had the lowest percentage at approximately 7%.


In the Cummins Correctional Facility, there were a total of 129 positive cases. The number has grown due to the transfer of inmates who were asymptomatic to other barracks. Health Secretary Nate Smith originally hoped that the outbreak was contained to a single barrack.


Smith urged Arkansans to remember loved ones who are most at risk. He cited his father-in-law who turned 86 on Friday and immigrated from Vietnam after surviving a communist camp. He said, “I want him out there gardening and not worrying about getting COVID-19.”


With the state Legislator’s fiscal session coming to a close on Thursday, Hutchinson stated that they were able to cut the budget so that it was balanced. He said, “With the balanced budget that was passed, the state is going to be able to continue those needed services for those who need it.”


As far as the long term impact on the economy of Arkansas, the governor believes that the lack of commerce will have the most impact. Huchinson cited the slow down of business as leading to the slow down of government which would cause a ripple effect on the future of Arkansas.


The goal for Arkansas to reach phase one of reopening is May 4.