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State leaders urge folks not to loosen up on safety guidelines despite the lift on restrictions



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Last week Arkansas lifted nearly all restrictions on businesses related to the coronavirus pandemic, changing a majority of directives into guidelines.

Following Governor Asa Hutchinson’s recent announcement the department of health is reminding folks that the state is not in the clear and the guidelines & safety precautions should still be taken seriously.

The ADH says people need to take personal responsibility in doing what they can to keep positive case numbers down. The state won’t be enforcing the restrictions but that does not mean people’s behavior should change.

You should still social distance and wash your hands and the mask mandate is still in full effect.

State Senator Greg Leding says he knows many people are ready to go back to life as usual but says there are concerns on how long it will take to get Arkansans vaccinated, the potential of a variant reaching the state and making sure Arkansas stays in a good spot overall.

“It’s encouraging to see some of these mandates turned into guidelines. I really think the message around that needs to be clearer because it seems a lot of people took the governor message to mean we are back to normal and that is not the case,” said Leding.

He believes the governor’s announcement would have been better received if it was delivered earlier during the week instead of Friday ahead of the weekend to avoid any confusion and to reinforce what those changes in the restrictions really mean for Arkansans.

Since the change, some restaurants have decided to operate at full service. Leding says he understands the need for restaurant to increase capacity especially since the hospitality industry has been hit pretty hard during the pandemic but adds there are ways to operate safely.

Some servers are also in a tough spot, of having to work but also facing more exposure and risk of getting the virus as folks pile in for a meal.

“I know there has to be some sort of logic in how we are distributing these vaccines… But if we are going to lift these guidelines that is going to result in packed restaurants then we need to do what we can to protect their employees,” said Leding.

Health experts say those in the hospitality industries should avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose. Make sure you are wearing your mask properly, disinfect high touch point areas and wash your hands more often. Anything a restaurant can do to increase ventilation will also help decrease the risks and continue to practice social distancing.

Hospitality workers currently fall under phase 1-C and the ADH tells us the goal is to open vaccination to that group in April. Right now, the ADH has no plans to move them up on the vaccination ladder.

Leding says he will continue to show his support for restaurants, businesses and encourages folk to stay vigilant in following the safety guidelines.