LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist, update the public on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
Governor Hutchinson signed three executive orders instead of calling a special session during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first executive order, Workers Compensation Coverage, the second is the Medical Immunity, and the third is the Business Liability. With the first, Arkansas employers must pay for medical care & provide time-off pay for workers who test positive for COVID-19.
“If businesses are doing their best then they should not fear litigation,” said Speaker Matthew Shepherd.
"There is no blanket immunity for bad actors. There must be a good-faith effort to provide safe workplaces. Anybody who gets COVID-19 at work deserves to have those costs taken care of,” said Senator Jim Hendren.
A question was asked, “Isn’t it rarely won when there is a sickness at the workplace?” Governor Hutchinson said, “Infectious diseases are a hard place to make a workers comp claim. This executive order says you can make a claim, but there has to be a cause-connection.”
In the executive orders, there must be a ‘cause relationship’ to worker getting COVID-19 from the workplace.
Sen. Hendren said, “We are in uncharted territories. Never have we ever had a Gov. shut down hundreds of businesses by executive order due to a pandemic. Many businesses are afraid to open back up.”
Another question was asked, “Why should Arkansans feel good going back to these businesses when they need this legislation to open? What message does it send?" Governor Hutchinson said, “We can’t have life on hold for 6 months to a year until there is a vaccination, and that is a challenge for us. So we have to protect ourselves and others, wear a mask, social distance."
Governor Hutchinson went on to say, “The first message was to flatten the curve, to give us time to accumulate PPE, and make sure we have hospital capacity. Now we have that capacity and PPE and infrastructure in place. The most important message now is when you go out, protect yourself, others and follow guidelines.”
Walmart has donated 7,000 masks to northwest Arkansas, 3,000 N95 masks, and 4,000 three-ply masks that will help the Marshallese and Latino communities.
Arkansas counties with the most of 416 new COVID19 cases:
- 126 Washington
- 53 Benton
- 25 Pope
- 20 Sevier
Hutchinson said, “We’re at an important time in this pandemic. The temptation is to let down our guard. Our admonition continues to be to protect yourself and others by social distancing and wearing a mask when you’re out in public. Cases will continue to go up this week.”