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Church services, large gatherings allowed to reopen as number of COVID-19 cases surpass 3,450

The governor made the announcement Monday (May 4) that these venues can reopen with restrictions.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson made the announcement that Arkansas residents can resume outdoor large gatherings and church services on May 4th with strict guidelines.

Credit: KFSM

This directive covers indoor venues for commercial, community, or civic events and activities where an audience, spectators, or a gathering of people are present, such as concerts, plays, movies, lectures, presentations, conferences, conventions, sporting events, races, fundraisers, trade shows, and festivals.

Venues include auditoriums, lecture halls, movie theatres, other theatres, museums, arenas, sports venues, race tracks, stadiums, gymnasiums, auction houses, amusement centers, barns, exhibit halls, conventions centers, and funeral homes. The list of venues also includes recreational facilities such as bowling alleys and trampoline parks.

Gatherings subject to this directive also include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure, commercial, or sporting events. 

Church services can resume May 4th with strict guidelines including social distancing, face masks must be worn at all times inside by those 10 years old and older, and hand sanitizing stations must be at entrances. 

The restrictions include families can sit together but must keep 6 feet distance from any other members of the congregation. Online platforms strongly encouraged at this time.

Gov. Hutchinson did note that churches make their own decisions about whether to restart in-person services. He expects some won't immediately reopen their doors out of caution. 

Credit: KFSM

The governor also said that large outdoor venues can reopen May 4th with restrictions as well. This includes outdoor arenas, sports venues, race tracks, stadiums, amusement center and fairgrounds. There must be 50 or fewer performers, players and contestants and 50 or fewer people in the audience.

“We are attempting to move past the restrictions that have been necessary during this pandemic, but we must do so in a manner that is based on solid data,” Governor Hutchinson said. “I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again. As we cautiously emerge from this difficult time, we will keep an eye on data for any evidence that we are moving too quickly.”

Credit: KFSM

A representative with The Naturals issued the following statement regarding the new guidelines:

"Today’s announcement doesn’t change anything in the short term for the Naturals and Arvest Ballpark. It will remain closed for the time being. We will continue to monitor guidance from the State of Arkansas along with Major and Minor League Baseball for possible next steps regarding our facility and season."

Credit: KFSM

Large indoor venues can reopen May 18th with similar restrictions. This includes auditoriums, lecture halls, movie theatres, museums, funeral homes and sports venues. 

This does not include casinos. The governor said he will make an announcement on casinos at a later date.

Jennifer Wilson with the Walton Arts Center released the following statement to 5NEWS:

"Walton Arts Center is on a performance suspension through May 9 but we've also had shows and events that were scheduled into June cancel or reschedule - basically the remained of our season, which ends in June. So we will not be presenting shows at Walton Arts Center until the state of our new season in September. The AMP season starts in mid June. We are working with tours daily to identify any programming changes and notify ticket holders. Changes are posted on the ticketing updates page of our website. After hearing the governor's guidelines today, and knowing this is just the first phase of recovery we are looking at our venues and determining the best course of action for the upcoming season." 

Credit: KFSM

Find the Arkansas Department of Health directive for large indoor venues HERE

The directive for large outdoor venues from the Arkansas Department of Health can be found HERE.

Gov. Hutchinson also addressed the Arkansas Ready for Business grant program saying the General Assembly approved $55 million for the grant program.

The website will go live Tuesday (May 5) at 8 a.m.

The grant will gap at $100,000 per company.

Applications must be fully submitted by 6 p.m. on Wednesday (May 6).

Credit: KFSM

The following are COVID-19 numbers in the state as of 2 p.m. Monday, May 4:

  • 3,458 positive cases (up 27)
  • Of the 27 new cases, 14 were in correctional institutions
  • 1,362 active cases
  • 91 hospitalizations
  • 81 deaths, up 5
  • 1,629 tests given
  • 16 on a ventilator (down 3)

RELATED: Arkansas hair salons & barbershops reopening May 6th

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