LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KARK) — Nearly 300 doctors from around Arkansas are urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to impose new restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases.
A letter from the doctors was delivered to Hutchinson Wednesday as the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new record level.
In the letter, they warned of the strain on the state’s health care system. The doctors called on Hutchinson to close bars and gyms, and to limit restaurants to takeout service only.
They also called on him to limit indoor gatherings to less than ten people.
Governor, we are at a crucial point in this pandemic. Arkansas needs strong leadership now more than ever. We, the physicians of Arkansas, implore you to take the necessary steps to save lives, even if they are unpopular steps to take. Countless lives depend upon it.
The governor’s office replied with its own letter to the doctors, outlining the steps Hutchinson and the state have taken already to limit the spread of the disease.
In his letter, Hutchinson said he appreciated the concern of the doctors regarding the spread of the disease but did not offer any changes to state plans or additional restrictions.
Under current state orders, restaurants and bars are limited to 66% seating capacity and must follow social distancing guidelines. Gyms in Arkansas are being asked to enforce a 12-foot social distancing rule for clients, while barbershops and cosmitology businesses have to keep customers 6 feet apart.
The state has also had a statewide mask mandate for businesses since July.
Arkansas’ probable and confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 1,715 on Wednesday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has seen 137,617 total cases of the virus and there have been 2,275 COVID-19-related deaths.