Arkansas restaurants allowed to have patrons dine in starting May 11; virus deaths rise to 59

FILE — Gov. Asa Hutchinson answers a question during a press briefing on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at the state Capitol in Little Rock in this file photo.

Restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service May 11, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday, but eateries will be subject to new standards on capacity, social distancing and sanitation.

Hutchinson also announced the number of deaths from covid-19 increased by two since Tuesday evening, for a total of 59. Six deaths from the virus were reported Tuesday, the state's highest one-day toll.

The total number of covid-19 cases rose Wednesday to 3,192. Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said active cases in which the patient is still ill, as opposed to recovered or deceased, fell Tuesday by 29 to 1,884. One new county, Montgomery County, has a reported case, he said.

Smith said that as of Wednesday, 93 patients were hospitalized with coronavirus, including 18 on ventilators.

Health care workers account for 340 cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, while nursing home residents account for 219.

Smith said that about one-third of the state’s 59 victims of covid-19 lived in nursing homes.

The state on Wednesday reported no new cases at the Cummins Unit state prison or other correctional institutes.

Smith said 11 inmates from the Cummins Unit are hospitalized, including three on ventilators. The total number of cases among inmates there was reported Tuesday as 860.


Restaurants that choose to reopen May 11 will only be allowed to seat one-third of their capacity, Hutchinson said, and parties must be physically spaced at least six feet apart. Parties larger than 10 will not be allowed.

Restaurants must screen employees every day for covid-19 symptoms including fever. Employees must also wear masks, and frequently wash hands.

Gloves were also listed in the requirements, though Smith said they must be replaced or washed frequently to be useful in preventing the spread of germs.

Although restaurants can serve alcohol, bar areas within restaurants cannot reopen. Facilities that are exclusively bars are not allowed to reopen under the plan, and entertainment at restaurants is also still banned.

The Health Department encourages reservations to prevent large numbers of people waiting for tables, and encourages creating an exclusive hour for senior patrons.

To help businesses including restaurants during the transition to reopening, Hutchinson announced a proposal for a $15 million grant program. Businesses would be able to apply for a grant of $1,000 per full-time employee up to $100,000, and the funding could go toward personal protective equipment or other expenses related to reopening.

The funds, which must still be approved for use as grants, would come from the money Arkansas received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

10:43 a.m.: Gov, state health officials to give 1:30 p.m. update; virus cases hit 3,137

The number of reported coronavirus cases in Arkansas rose to 3,137, the state Health Department reported Wednesday.

A total of 57 people have died as a result of the virus in Arkansas, while 1,235 people have recovered, according to a state website.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state health officials will provide an update on the state’s covid-19 response at 1:30 p.m. Check back to watch the live video.

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