GOP governor blocks stay-at-home order despite requesting disaster aid


Asa Hutchinson formally requested that a 'major disaster' be declared in Arkansas on March 30.

Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson is one of a handful of governors who have refused to issue stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of coronavirus in their states.

On Tuesday he announced that he would not allow local authorities within Arkansas to issue such orders either, despite having previously requested disaster relief himself from the federal government.

Hutchinson told reporters that he had rejected a request from Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to allow a stay-at-home order for the state's capital city.

"I've had discussions with a number of different mayors, and I think it points to the need to have a statewide policy," Hutchinson said. "If you have a business in one community, it impacts others."

On April 1, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the Trump administration's social distancing guidelines should be taken as a "national stay-at-home order."

But while 42 states have told their citizens to stay home in most circumstances, Hutchinson has rejected calls for such a move in Arkansas, believing a "targeted response" of encouraging social distancing "has proven to be effective."

"If you look at any of the measuring sticks, we have reduced the spread. Our growth rate is lower than it is in most of the other states, some with even a stringent stay-at-home order," he told NPR on Monday.

Hutchinson's suggestion that he has the virus under control is at odds with a request he made last month for federal disaster relief.

On March 30, Hutchinson formally requested that a "major disaster" be declared in Arkansas under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, requesting federal aid to stem the crisis. He noted in his request that the state already had 473 confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths.

On April 3, Donald Trump approved Hutchinson's request, allowing the state access to significant federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As of Wednesday, the Arkansas Department of Health had reported 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 18 people have died in the state as a result of the virus so far.

Fewer than 14,000 people had been tested as of Tuesday night out of the total population of about 3 million Arkansans.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.