- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson released Executive Order 20-02 on February 3 for the implementation of Emergency Support Functions
- On March 11, Hutchinson signed an EO declaring a state of emergency for Arkansas
- On Thursday, Hutchinson closed schools for an additional three weeks, until at least April 11
Arkansas is currently home to over 100 of the almost 20,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in America. Just as other states have done around the country, Arkansas leaders have taken steps to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The current COVID-19 restrictions in Arkansas are more relaxed than several other states.
On February 3, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Executive Order 20-02, concerning the implementation of Emergency Support Functions (ESF). Arkansas uses ESF to coordinate planning and response efforts between government, private, and non-government entities. The order appoints the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) Director A.J. Gary to direct all disaster and emergency operations.
Gary also has control of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Activation of the SEOC constitutes the implementation of the Arkansas Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. There are 16 ESFs with a primary coordinating agency assigned to each. Each department, division, office, agency, and organization identified in the EO has a designated emergency coordinator and alternate coordinator appointed to act on the department’s behalf during a time of emergency. The head of each department also designates a Continuity of Operation Plan (COOP) coordinator to maintain plans, procedures, arrangements, and agreements to ensure the organization will continue to carry out missions.
On March 11, Hitchinson signed an EO declaring a state of emergency for Arkansas. The Department of Health was placed as the lead agency to work with the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management. Following the EO, the Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith is allowed to issue orders of isolations and quarantine as “necessary and appropriate to control this disease in the State of Arkansas.” Smith, in consultation with Hutchinson, “shall have sole authority over all instances of quarantine, isolation, and restrictions on commerce and travel throughout the state.”
Arkansas leaders are encouraging social distancing and suggesting citizens to avoid large gatherings. On March 13, Hutchinson suspended provisions of a section of the Telemedicine Act, which requires a face to face examination to establish a personal relationship. Licensed physicians can now treat patients via phone if clinically appropriate. The physician can then diagnose, treat and prescribe non-controlled drugs via technological visits with patients.
Hutchinson also suspended the Rules and Regulations of the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling regarding the requirement for a Technology-assisted Distance Counseling or Marriage Family Therapy specialization license. With those regulations suspended, therapists and counselors can provide reasonable mental health treatment using any technology declared appropriate by the provider.
Anyone coming from a Level 2 or higher travel advisory is asked to isolate themselves for 14 days. The same precautions are advised to be taken should you believe you were potentially exposed to COVID-19. If the person does not develop symptoms during that period, they are free to return to their life.
At the direction of the Department of Health, detention facilities can refuse visitors if they have traveled internationally in the last 14 days to an area of the world suffering from COVID-19. If you recently had contact with someone confirmed of having COVID-19. Symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, and fever could also get visitors turned away.
On Thursday, Hutchinson announced that schools would remain closed for at least an additional three weeks until April 17. As that date approaches, the public health conditions will be re-evaluated. Education is continuing currently through Alternative Methods of Instruction. Five additional days were added but now another 15 days will be added to “ensure learning can take place in a safe environment.”