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Gov. Hutchinson backs off lifting virus limits by region

It's not clear when the governor will allow “phase 2,” but he's not considering loosening restrictions by region, an idea he floated last week.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson is backing off the possibility of allowing just some parts of the state to lift coronavirus restrictions after the state hit a new record for people hospitalized from the virus. 

It's not clear when the governor will allow “phase 2,” but he said Monday (June 8) that he's not considering loosening restrictions by region, an idea he floated last week. 

“We’re not ready to make any jumps or changes in that direction, we will continue to evaluate what is the option if there should be an option from how we’re looking at the state,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Arkansas in recent weeks has allowed businesses that closed because of the virus to reopen, but with limits on capacity and other restrictions. 

Gov. Hutchinson and Health Secretary Nate Smith said there is no connection between new cases and businesses reopening.

The Health Department said at least 9,740 people have tested positive for the virus. 

The following COVID-19 numbers are as followed on Monday (June 8):

  • 9,740 total cases (up 314)
  • 171 hospitalizations (up 26)
  • 155 deaths (up 1)
  • 2,955 active cases
  • 46 on ventilators (up 11)
  • 6,630 recoveries (up 206)
  • 4,131 tests have been done over the last 24 hours
  • 86 new cases in Washington County, 41 in Benton County
  • 28,862 tests have been done in the month of June

Many restaurant owners are patiently waiting to let their employees and customers know when phase 2 will begin, but it doesn't look like that will happen any time soon.

“It’s a different business completely,” said Brett Brundige, owner of Fish City Grill.

He says at this point, making sure customers wear their masks inside has been a hot topic.

“It becomes an issue when they went to a restaurant yesterday that wasn’t enforcing it and then they come to one today that is enforcing it,” Brundige says.

He says his team is focusing on maintaining the best customer service possible while also following the guidelines for phase 1.

With over two decades in business, Brundige says the challenges the restaurant industry is facing right now are not quite like anything he's experienced.

“You have people that have two completely different thought processes on it sitting at tables 10 feet apart from each other and our job is to do what we can to appease both of them, even if they completely disagree, so there’s an anxiety to how much longer do we have to do this,” Brundige says.

He says he will continue to patiently wait for new guidelines and continue to follow to current safety precautions.

Some of the restrictions in place right now for restaurants include capacity limitations, table spacing and masks have to be worn by customers and staff.

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