On Sunday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace to discuss his state’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“You never issued a stay-at-home order in your state, and now, you’ve officially reopened all your stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms, although at reduced capacity,” Wallace said. “Governor, what’s your thinking about all that?”
Well, my thinking is that we have to manage the risk. We take the virus very seriously. It’s a risk, it causes death, but you can’t cloister yourself in home. That is just contrary to the American spirit.
“And we have to discipline ourselves. We have to manage the risk. I make the comparison with – you know, you can be in an automobile and it’s very risky, but you manage the risk by wearing a seat belt,” the governor added. “At first, everyone resisted wearing a seat belt and said, well, that’s a matter of freedom. Well, it is, but it’s also a matter of safety.”
Hutchinson continued, saying that they are “managing the risk,” and that the state has fewer than 100 hospitalizations from the virus.
“It doesn’t diminish the seriousness in which we take it, but we have to manage the risk, grow our economy. We have to come back, and not just in Arkansas, but nationally, because this virus is deadly, but it’s going to be with us a while,” the governor said.
Wallace followed up by asking Hutchinson about risk management, saying that the state of Arkansas has “not followed the White House guidelines, which called for a steady decline for two weeks in the number of new cases in a state before they could go to each new phase.”
The host then showed a chart in which the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas bobs “up and down like the stock market,” noting that the “highest single day of cases” occurred on Thursday when there were 455.
“Which raises the question, do you really have the virus under control in Arkansas?” Wallace asked.
Hutchinson responded by pointing out that the state reopened on the decline, and that another criteria for reopening is a “decline in … positivity rate.”
“If you look at our positivity rate, 10% is the national standard you try to get to. We’ve expanded testing in Arkansas, but even with that, our positivity rate has been running lower than 5% of all of our tests,” Hutchinson said.
And so, you manage the risk by increasing the testing. You look at it as to whether the fact that we’ve lifted restrictions is one of the reasons for the increased number of cases, and our answer is, we don’t see a connection there. We see it because we’re testing more and we’re following and tracing where those are coming from, and they’re not coming from the fact that we’ve lifted some of the restrictions.
For example, many of them come from the food supply industry, which is an essential service [that] nobody closes down anyway, and we can’t. And so, you’ve got to manage the risk, and we did, we believe comfortable in terms of meeting the criteria to go to phase one.
When asked about a peak in cases, and how he would respond given his press briefing on Saturday during which he spoke about a high school “swim party” where the virus allegedly spread, Hutchinson said it’s about “transparency” and “self-discipline.”
“It’s a matter of self-discipline, and that’s why I talked about the swim party and the fact that you can pass the virus at a swim party,” the governor replied. “I don’t think we’re going to say you can’t invite anybody over to a pool in the backyard of your home. I think you have to exercise discipline and make sure you have the right constraints in place. And so, it’s education.”
Hutchinson added that part of the “reason for the spike” is “because we have greater testing.”
“We got to think about next fall. Where are we going to be? We’re not going to be cloistered in our home. That’s contrary to the American spirit. We’ve got to manage the risk next fall by the infrastructure that we’re building now,” the governor concluded.
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