Arkansas Governor Among The Few Not To Issue Stay-At-Home Order So Far NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson about the state's response to the coronavirus. The state is one of a few that has not issued a stay-at-home order.

Arkansas Governor Among The Few Not To Issue Stay-At-Home Order So Far

Arkansas Governor Among The Few Not To Issue Stay-At-Home Order So Far

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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson about the state's response to the coronavirus. The state is one of a few that has not issued a stay-at-home order.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Surgeon General Jerome Adams says this week is going to be tough.

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JEROME ADAMS: The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It's going to be our 9/11 moment. It's going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire life.

KELLY: Adams was speaking there on NBC's "Meet The Press." Most governors have issued broad, statewide stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Eight have not. Dr. Anthony Fauci from the White House coronavirus task force says he wishes they would.

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ANTHONY FAUCI: If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be.

KELLY: Among the states that have not issued a broad stay-at-home order - Arkansas. And Arkansas governor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, joins us now.

Governor, welcome back to the program.

ASA HUTCHINSON: Good to be with you today.

KELLY: So I know you have closed bars and restaurant dining rooms in Arkansas. I know today you closed schools through the end of the school year. Why not issue a formal stay-at-home order?

HUTCHINSON: Well, we've done much more than that. Ours is a targeted response that 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.

And one of the things that we've done is not just have enforced social distancing but also wearing masks. That's what is needed as to slowing the spread. And we've been somewhat successful in that. And as a result of that, our case number has reduced its growth. You know, our hospitalizations is 74 in Arkansas. And so we're - I think Dr. Fauci and everyone would be very pleased with actually where we are right now.

And we're going to continue to look at it. If we have to do more, we will. But the stay-at-home order's a little bit misleading because, you know, if we put in a stay-at-home order today, then tomorrow morning, 700,000 Arkansans would go to work. And people would say, what's the difference? - because if you don't have the social distancing or wear mask, then you're going to continue the spread. So we're doing a targeted approach that emphasizes those points, and we make adjustments as needed.

KELLY: Well - and I appreciate your laying all that out for us. Thank you. Let me follow up on a couple things you said. One, in terms of the number of cases - I'm looking at numbers that show confirmed cases in Arkansas rose more than 80% in the last week - 854 today versus 473 last Monday, which I suppose prompts a question of, you know, how do you know how well your state is doing when testing has been so problematic everywhere nationwide?

HUTCHINSON: Because they measure testing in every state, and every state has struggled with the same things that we struggle with. But we've had over 11,000 tests in Arkansas, and our testing is very similar to what it is in other states. We continue to...

KELLY: But are those numbers correct - that confirmed cases in Arkansas are up more than 80% in the last week?

HUTCHINSON: Well, if you look at the - you know, the measuring stick of how we - how fast does it take to double the number of our cases, we have slowed that down so now that it takes seven days - is our most recent doubling, which is really slowing and flattening that curve. If you look at the report that I received from the - Dr. Birx today, you know, Arkansas is very flat in terms of its growth rate. And so I think we're where we should be. If we need to do more, we will.

KELLY: Another point you mentioned - you mentioned jobs, which is, of course, on your mind as governor. What would you say to those who would accuse you of prioritizing the economy over the health of people in your state?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I would disagree with that. I listen to my health professionals - Dr. Smith (ph) and his team at the Department of Health. And if they say we need to do more, we'll do more. That's important that we make decisions based upon public health...

KELLY: But you heard Dr. Fauci - I mean, you're hearing the most senior infectious disease specialist in the country saying, I wish everybody would have a stay-at-home order in place.

HUTCHINSON: Well, also, the surgeon general yesterday had an opportunity in his message, and he didn't disagree with what we're doing. He just wants us to concentrate as much as we can this week, and we're doing that. And so we're following the CDC guidelines. We're doing what makes a difference in Arkansas, and we're having success at it. And if we have to do more, we will absolutely do more because public health is essential. But we don't want to put people out of work unless there's a good public health benefit to do that.

KELLY: It sounds like you don't rule out something down the road. Just a very more - one quick question in the seconds we have left. How do you weigh responsibility to your neighbors - to, say, Tennessee, Louisiana? I interviewed your counterpart, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, just on Friday. He told me he's extremely worried. He's got a stay-at-home order through April 30.

HUTCHINSON: Well, talked to John Bel Edwards today, and we sent him five ventilators from Arkansas to help them through their very tough time.

KELLY: Is that right?

HUTCHINSON: We're working in partnership. We'll continue to do that.

KELLY: That is Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Always good to have you on the program. Thank you, sir.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you.

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