Asa: Don’t retreat from virus safety steps


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor has urged lawmakers to not retreat from the state’s coronavirus safety measures and to enact hate crimes legislation in his State of State address delivered in the middle of the pandemic.

The Republican governor on Tuesday called on the majority-GOP Legislature to support the state’s emergency declaration he issued in response to the virus. Hutchinson faces pushback from some GOP lawmakers over the state’s safety measures, which include a mask mandate.

He also called on the Legislature to enact a hate crimes bill he’s advocating. Arkansas is one of three states in the nation without a hate crimes law.

The House and Senate convened on Monday for the 93rd General Assembly. Both chambers featured new safety measures that include plexiglass partitions between members. More than 4,000 people in Arkansas have died from COVID-19, and Arkansas has had one of the biggest outbreaks in a state legislature.

Hospitalizations for the illness caused by the new coronavirus have set a second record high for Arkansas in three days.

The 1,371 hospitalizations reported Monday bested the record 1,346 set Saturday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the 1,268 new cases of COVID-19, the illness the coronavirus causes, shows the pace of new cases appears to be slowing.

State health officials say active COVID-19 cases numbered 25,534 Monday, almost 2,000 fewer than Sunday. Thirty-eight new deaths rose the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 4,081.

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Remember: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing.

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