Many Arkansans disagree with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and his reluctance to announce a shelter in place order. In fact, political consultant Ken Yang recently shared a statewide poll with 47% of Arkansans saying there should be a shelter in place order in effect.
Governor Hutchinson addressed those who feel the targeted measures aren’t enough, “…a true stay at home order would prohibit anyone from leaving their home.” He went on to add that exempting essential employees creates confusion.
States with stay at home or shelter in place orders still allow people still go to grocery stores, doctors’ offices, their pharmacy and parks. In a press conference last week, Hutchinson stated that if he gave an order that day, “700,000 Arkansans would still get up to go to work the next morning—as nurses, doctors, truck drivers, electricians, lawyers, accountants, grocers, shelf-stockers and media types.” Additionally, the order would add 100,000 Arkansans to the unemployment rolls.
Local lawmakers agree. “I believe Gov. Hutchinson’s response has been correct,” stated Senator Terry Rice. “People need to continue practicing safety measures.”
State Representative Marcus Richmond added, “at this point I see no reason to shelter in place. What we are doing now seems to be flattening the curve. Frankly, there is very little difference in what we are doing now in Arkansas when compared to those states who have shelter in place orders. Those states have waivers for this essential service and for that essential service which limits benefits while increasing disruption. Frankly more application of common sense by everyone would limit government intrusion. If you don’t have to be some place don’t go. If you do have to be some place be sure to keep a safe distance from others. Wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face.”
So how would a shelter in place order change our day to day activities? Under the current guidelines, dining in at restaurants, hair, nail and massage parlors are closed, campsites and lodging are restricted, most non-essential businesses have closed or altered their operations, in-classroom instruction has been moved to online, cities, counties and state buildings have all either closed or restricted visitors.
A stay at home or shelter in place order could include travel restrictions or curfews. Those found in violation of the order would be subject to fine or imprisonment.
Huntington resident Shannon Pollard said she wants to see more non-essential businesses close, and for citizens to take social distancing more seriously. “I think it (shelter in place order) would make people take this more seriously…People would have to shut down their non-essential businesses like restaurants, book shops, etc. People are still frequenting these places and this is only continuing the spread.”
Governor Hutchinson maintains that the state has been successful in the targeted response, and as a result, the number of cases is below those predicted. However, he acknowledges that if health experts recommend doing more, he is prepared to do so.
Is it necessary for the state government to impose on citizens a mandatory order for some people to act responsibly? Although opinion is split across the state, one fact remains universal. Each individual is responsible for the spread or containment of this virus.