LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday the creation of a task force to help the state recover economically from restrictions that were put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The task force will be led by Steuart Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Walmart is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The group will focus on helping small businesses because “that’s where we want to be able to get back to work,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.
During the pandemic, the governor did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order but imposed other restrictions that closed businesses such as gyms and casinos. He also prohibited sit-down service at restaurants and bars.
On Friday, Hutchinson said he hoped to lift some restrictions imposed on businesses during the pandemic if Arkansas meets the criteria in a three-phase plan laid out Thursday by the Trump administration for states to reopen their economies.
The task force, which will include representatives from retail, agriculture and churches, will work to “put this economy in higher gear, but to do it in a way that’s consistent with public health requirements and that gives the public confidence,” Hutchinson said.
The task force will hold its first meeting next week.
State health officials reported Saturday that one more person has died in Arkansas after contracting the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 38. Another 44 residents have tested positive for the virus as the total number of cases reached at least 1,739.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Members of the Governor's Task Force
Steuart Walton, Runway Group (Chair)
Wes Ward, Department of Agriculture
Mike Preston, Department of Commerce
Stacy Hurst, Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
Ted Thomas, Public Service Commission
Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
Sylvester Smith, National Federation of Independent Business
Joey Dean, Associated General Contractors of Arkansas
Annemarie Jazic, Dillard’s Inc.
Charlie Spakes, Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association
Montine McNulty, Arkansas Hospitality Association
Kelly Eichler, Indoor Recreational Facilities
Deke Whitbeck, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation
Lance Taylor, Arkansas Activities Association
Hunter Yurachek, University of Arkansas
Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association
Charles Frazier, Rock Region METRO
Lorrie Trogden, Arkansas Bankers Association
Dr. Sonny Tucker, Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention
Bishop Gary Mueller, Arkansas Conference of United Methodists
Bishop Michael Mitchell, African Methodist Episcopal Church 12th District
Dr. Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
Andy Goodman, Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities
Andrea Henderson, Arkansas Association of Community Colleges
Dr. Chuck Welch, Arkansas State University System
David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society
Bo Ryall, Arkansas Hospital Association