Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
Editor’s note: This entry will be subject to regular updating and revision as the pandemic continues.
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) began sweeping the world beginning in late 2019. The virus created a large-scale public health crisis and caused some countries to quarantine entire regions—or, in the case of Italy, the entire nation. The pandemic also cratered the economies of many nations throughout the world. The virus was first detected in Arkansas in March 2020.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease closely related to the original SARS virus (SARS-CoV), which produced a worldwide epidemic in 2002–2003; the virus that causes COVID-19 is, in fact, designated SARS-CoV-2. The name stems from the virus’s appearance in electron micrographs, exhibiting a crown (corona) shape. Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough and fever, and the disease spreads like influenza, through droplets in the air or through personal contact with someone already infected. Most of those infected experience mild symptoms, though the disease can lead to pneumonia and require hospitalization, especially among older and immunocompromised populations. Most reports found that the virus had a fatality rate of between one and five percent, depending upon variables such as age. SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Wuhan, a major trading city located in Hubei Province, China, presumed by most scientists to have made the jump to humans from an animal at one of the city’s various markets where live animals are sold for food. (While many still think that presumption is accurate, President Joe Biden announced in May 2021 that he had asked the international intelligence community to examine whether COVID could have emerged from a laboratory accident in China.) In late fall 2019, various cases of a SARS-like illness started showing up, and the Chinese government originally tried to suppress news of the emerging outbreak before finally releasing a public notice on December 31, 2019. By late January, China had shut down the entire city of Wuhan and canceled several celebrations of the Chinese New Year. However, by that point, the disease had begun to spread internationally through human-to-human transmission. The first cases that appeared outside of China were among people who had recently traveled to Hubei province, but it did not take long for the virus to spread among those who had not engaged in such travel. China’s geographical neighbors, such as Japan and South Korea, were among the countries most immediately affected, and soon enough, the virus had spread to every continent except Antarctica.
The first official case in the United States was diagnosed on January 21, 2020, although later research indicated that the disease had been spreading in the country long before that. Given that, in 2018, President Donald Trump had personally fired the federal government’s entire chain of command for pandemic response, the United States was lacking an organizational framework capable of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Trump regularly downplayed scientific estimates about the extent of the pandemic, suggested (contrary to experts) that a vaccine could be developed in a short period of time, stated (contrary to experts) that warmer months would kill off the virus, praised his own handling of the situation, blamed the administration of President Barack Obama (which had ended in January 2017) for the shortage of coronavirus test kits, and, according to many reports, urged the cessation of testing in order to keep the official number of infected low. As the virus spread across the United States, many state and municipal governments were forced to adopt strategies of their own in the face of federal confusion and indifference.
On March 11, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that a person in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) with a record of travel had been positively diagnosed with COVID-19. The person in question was a resident of Trinity Village Retirement Center, which immediately was locked down. This was the first presumptive case from Arkansas. By that point, more than 1,000 cases had been diagnosed in the United States, with more than 115,000 worldwide. Gov. Hutchinson also restricted out-of-state travel for all state employees and declared a public health emergency. On March 12, a staff member at Arkansas Children’s Hospital was reported as testing positive for the virus, and Frank Scott, the mayor of Little Rock (Pulaski County), declared a state of emergency for the city. The city of Little Rock also closed community centers and the indoor buildings of the Little Rock Zoo, and the Little Rock School District announced the temporary suspension of classes, as did other school districts in the region. By the end of the day, six presumptive positive cases had been detected in the state in Saline, Jefferson, and Pulaski counties, and Secretary of State John Thurston closed the Arkansas State Capitol to the public. In keeping with similar sporting events across the nation, Oaklawn Park announced that it would continue its horse races but without spectators (the Arkansas Derby that year included two divisions to make up for canceled races elsewhere), and the Arkansas Activities Association announced that it was halting state basketball tournaments. On March 13, three more coronavirus cases were announced, including the first case contracted through “community spread,” in which the immediate source of the infection was unknown. By week’s end, all the state’s public universities had arranged to conduct classes online.
On March 15, Hutchinson ordered state K–12 schools closed for a week. Oaklawn Park closed its doors, as did the Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff and Southland Park in West Memphis (Crittenden County). On March 20, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) announced that its hospital and clinics would be closed to visitors to try to limit the spread of the virus. That same day, the number of cases rose to 100, including cases at three different nursing homes, and the governor issued an executive order in response to the virus, although this order forbade local officials, such as mayors, from instituting any measures such as quarantines or “shelter in place” orders not approved by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Response to the spread of the virus often had partisan characteristics. For example, after Beverly Reep, the wife of state Representative Greg Reep, a Democrat of Warren (Bradley County), fell ill with COVID-19, locals on social media accused the couple of contracting the virus on purpose in order to spread it and thus tarnish the image of Donald Trump. Beverly Reep, who suffered from diabetes, died a month later due to complications from the virus. Political divisions would later arise in response to mask mandates, vaccinations, and other efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
On March 23, 2020, Hutchinson announced his intention to call a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly to deal with the budget shortfall created by the pandemic. The governor also extended the state deadline to file taxes from April 15 to July 15. On March 24, 2020, the state recorded its first COVID-19 death when a ninety-one-year-old man in Cleburne County succumbed, and a second soon followed. By March 25, 2020, the number of active cases had risen to 280; the following day, it stood at 349. By that time, leaders in several cities, including Little Rock, had instituted curfews to limit social activity.
The Arkansas House of Representatives opened its special session on March 26, 2020, in a basketball arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) in order to provide sufficient distance between members and staff, while the Arkansas Senate met at the Arkansas State Capitol. That same day, the Arkansas Department of Health issued a directive prohibiting the gathering of ten or more people in any confined, indoor space, including “community, civic, public, leisure, commercial, or sporting events, concerts, conferences, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, and festivals.” The Arkansas General Assembly met for its regular fiscal session on April 8, 2020, undertaking the same set-up it did for the special session the previous month; the session was speedily accomplished. The most noteworthy proposal during the session was one by state Senator Joyce Elliott to allow for no-excuse absentee-ballot voting during the November election, but state Republicans opposed the measure.
On March 31, Hutchinson announced that he would seek a major disaster declaration for the state of Arkansas due to the coronavirus. By April 8, the case count exceeded 1,000, and the virus was spreading rapidly. By May 10, total diagnoses broke 4,000, a rise the governor attributed to a lag in logging prisoners’ results, especially those at the federal prison in Forrest City (St. Francis County). On July 11, the state logged more than 1,000 new daily cases for the first time. By July 15, the state surpassed 30,000 total diagnoses. Among these was former U.S. senator David Pryor and his wife, Barbara, who announced that they had tested positive the previous weekend. On June 17, 2020, the Kansas Department of Health issued a mandate that travelers from Arkansas, Alabama, and Arizona who entered Kansas would be required to quarantine themselves for fourteen days due to the growth of the disease in those states. The following week, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut followed suit with regards to Arkansas. By August 10, Arkansas had surpassed 50,000 diagnoses and 500 deaths. By September 13, those numbers were more than 70,000 and nearly 1,000, respectively. Before the end of the month, total diagnoses had exceeded 80,000. By October 8, after several days of dramatic increases, the total positive diagnoses for the state had exceeded 90,000, with deaths passing 1,500. On November 3, deaths surpassed the 2,000 mark.
Early in the pandemic, the Trump administration’s refusal to coordinate at the federal level the production and disbursement of much needed medical supplies left individual states competing with each other, a situation of which rapacious companies took eager advantage. On March 30, 2020, for example, Dean Kumpuris, the Little Rock city director chairing the city’s coronavirus task force, announced that the city had, with the help of Representative French Hill, secured the purchase of 500 ventilators, devices to assist patient breathing; however, later that day, it was revealed that the company supplying those ventilators had opted, instead, to take a bid from New York City, which had, by that time, become the national center of the COVID-19 outbreak, at a cost of $20,000 more per unit, which the city of Little Rock could not match. On April 12, six trucks of masks, gloves, and medical gowns finally arrived in Arkansas following great difficulty in obtaining the necessary equipment due to mistakes in shipment, the diversion of supplies elsewhere, and the intervention of others with better contacts.
Many churches across the nation and globe attracted significant criticism for their refusal to cease in-person services, as well as their nature as vectors of the disease due to factors such as close contact and singing. One of the early detected clusters of COVID-19 in Arkansas centered upon Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Cleburne County, where dozens of congregants were discovered to be infected with the virus and likely spread it to congregations in other states. In early April, Awaken Church in Jonesboro (Craighead County) attracted national attention for its refusal to halt large-scale services, leading Hutchinson, who had exempted churches from his executive order, to consider an order specifically for Awaken Church. However, not all churches engaged in irresponsible behavior. For example, on March 13, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock announced that it was canceling all Sunday masses.
Hutchinson himself came in for significant national criticism for being one of a handful of governors, all Republicans, who refused to issue a “shelter in place” rule that would enforce certain measures of social distancing. Too, on April 18, he announced the formation of an Economic Recovery Task Force, but a later report by Facing South noted that not only were more than half of the appointees directly tied to business interests, but that the staffing of the task force drew heavily upon individuals with ties to the wealthy Walton family. The Walton family, owners of the Walmart chain, did well financially during the pandemic, given increased shopping at Walmart stores as people, already hurt economically, sought to stock up for a lengthy period of time. By April 2020, the combined wealth of siblings Alice, Jim, and Rob Walton had climbed to $165.7 billion, a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year. Walmart itself saw first-quarter growth of 8.6 percent in 2020. That same month, the Association of Arkansas Counties was warning county judges and treasurers that the pandemic would be significantly reducing county revenues, especially due to a decline in sales taxes. The state’s revenue for April 2020 was down 28.3 percent compared to April 2019.
The pandemic affected a number of Arkansas businesses and cultural institutions, as well as local governments. On March 30, 2020, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, which had just the previous year restarted operations after suffering financially, announced that it was suspending all operations, citing how the closure of public spaces had affected its finances. Baptist Health System furloughed numerous workers due to a reduction in general medical tests and routine procedures, and the Capital Hotel ceased operations temporarily. The city of Little Rock, on April 1, 2020, voted to cut its budget and furlough select workers due to the decline of tax revenue that would have been generated by visitors to the city. University and high school graduation programs were canceled. In May, Dassault Falcon Jet of Little Rock announced the furlough of its workforce based at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. That same month, Dillard’s, Inc., announced a first-quarter loss of $162 million due to the virus. UAMS announced in May that it was anticipating a deficit of more than $45 million. Throughout the pandemic, state and local media organizations, already in dire financial straits due to the internet’s dislocation of advertising and readership, worked hard to respond to the need for information. However, newspapers were hindered in their efforts to report fully upon the state government response to the crisis due to many state agencies claiming exemption to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by declaring their response plans “working papers.” The pandemic caused a collapse in oil prices across the globe. As a result, Murphy Oil Corporation, which had been based in El Dorado (Union County) for decades, announced in May 2020 that it was consolidating its offices in Houston, Texas, and leaving the southern Arkansas city.
Tourism took a direct hit. In March, state museums were shuttered. The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs (Garland County) was rescheduled for October (though it was later canceled outright); the Greek Food Festival and the Six Bridges Book Festival, normally held in the spring, were held in October, albeit only through remote options. The 2020 Miss Arkansas Pageant was postponed until 2021. Beginning on April 1, the state forbade overnight camping at state parks, and Hot Springs National Park closed its Gulpha Gorge campground, while the governor asked the National Park Service to close the Buffalo River to visitors. In early April, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) announced that hotel revenue for downtown Little Rock had decreased by sixty-five percent. Anthony Timberlands cut production by half at its Malvern (Hot Spring County) and Bearden (Ouachita County) mills, and Dillard’s Inc., based in Little Rock, had temporarily closed some 200 of its 285 stores by early April. By that point, the LRCVB had reported that sixty-four events slated to be held at the Statehouse Convention Center and Robinson Center between March 12 and November 15 had been canceled, with another sixty-eight postponed. The LRCVB also closed Ottenheimer Hall, which houses the Little Rock River Market, and did not reopen it until May 2021. Many cities also closed their local parks to prevent the spread of the virus, with North Little Rock (Pulaski County) shutting down the Old Mill and Little Rock closing Boyle Park, for example. In July, it was announced that the Arkansas State Fair would be canceled for the year.
The virus hit especially hard against the working class, many of whom had jobs that could not be done remotely and whose jobs were typically not unionized, thus meaning that they often lacked sick leave or the ability to collectively demand protections for workers. Tyson Foods plants were notorious for forcing workers to labor even while sick or risk dismissal, which helped the spread of COVID-19 around the country. In an April 26 full-page advertisement published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the company tried to defend its record while also making the claim that the “food supply chain is breaking” under the stress of plant closures. (This was a lie—poultry exports broke records that same month, demonstrating that the supply chain was functioning well.) By early May, more than 1,000 workers at a single plant in Waterloo, Iowa, had tested positive for COVID-19, for example; this came following a two-week closure of the plant due to a spike in cases. Later that month, another 570 tested positive at a facility in North Carolina, despite that particular facility having been closed for a time to allow for deep cleaning. In Arkansas, meat processing plants were also sites of COVID-19 transmission, including a Boar’s Head plant in Forrest City and a facility in Yell County. Outbreaks at Tyson facilities in northwestern Arkansas even drew the attention of the New York Times. In mid-June, it was reported that 247 workers tested positive at a Tyson facility in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties). China later suspended poultry imports from this plant, while activist group Venceremos held protests against working conditions for poultry laborers in northwestern Arkansas. Little Rock–based Montaire was the subject of an extensive New Yorker story by renowned reporter Jane Mayer on how poultry companies, aided by the Trump administration, were using the outbreak as an opportunity to kill labor unions. In November, a lawsuit against Tyson alleged that managers at a plant in Illinois had a betting pool about which workers would become sick with COVID-19. Tyson workers accounted for nearly one-third of all infected workers in the state of Arkansas.
Unemployment claims rose dramatically as a result of the pandemic, and the state had trouble processing the increase in claims. By April 8, unemployment claims had topped 110,000, and the state had promised an extra $600 per week for those seeking assistance to help them weather the pandemic. The following week, unemployment claims surpassed 150,000. The inability of the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to process the increased unemployment claims, either online or by telephone, led to an increase in personal visits to local unemployment offices, despite the pandemic. In response, the state promised more call-takers and a better online filing system. However, on May 15, the Arkansas Times reported that the special website established by the state to provide unemployment relief to contract and self-employed workers was so poorly designed that individuals could access the personal information of other applicants, including Social Security numbers, by simple manipulation of the website’s URL. After the Times reported the matter to the state, the website was taken down for redesign. Official unemployment figures for April reached 10.2 percent for the state. On June 15, Hutchinson signed three executive orders to shield businesses from liability should employees become infected while on the job.
Education suffered during the pandemic. On April 6, 2020, Gov. Hutchinson ordered that public schools continue remote instruction to the end of the school year. Given the number of students who received free or reduced lunches through the school system, a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Clinton Foundation, stepped up to feed children while the schools were closed. Internet access proved to be an obstacle for many students, especially given that Arkansas lacked broadband in many areas, and the state’s poverty meant that many students did not have internet access at home. In October 2020, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that, despite laws requiring schools to maintain quarterly attendance records, many schools in the state simply reported 100 percent attendance after the switch to virtual instruction, regardless of the extent to which students were participating. One school district that maintained more accurate records, that of North Little Rock, recorded that only about three-fourths of students participated in remote learning.
In early April, the Arkansas Department of Correction announced that prison labor would be used to manufacture cloth masks for use in the prison system and beyond. Nationally, prisons were the focus of much concern surrounding the pandemic, given that the close confines and ease with which the virus could spread proved an ideal combination for COVID-19. In Arkansas, the federal detention facility at Forrest City was particularly hard hit, with twenty-nine individuals there testing positive by April 7; this increased to 330 by mid-May. Although governors in other states offered early release to select non-violent offenders to try to cut down on the prison population and thus prevent the spread of the disease, Hutchinson insisted that these measures were not needed in Arkansas. The first death of a state employee was that of Richard Richardson, who worked at the Central Arkansas Community Correction Center in Little Rock. By April 10, thirteen employees of the Arkansas Department of Correction had tested positive for the virus, and the first infected inmate was detected at the Cummins Unit; it was later revealed that forty-three of forty-six inmates in one particular barracks had been infected at Cummins. Further testing was done, showing that nearly 1,000 in the facility, including several staff, had been infected, leading the state to re-evaluate early release for those who had committed parole violations or other non-violent offenses. The outbreak at Cummins, located in rural Lincoln County, eventually became the densest COVID-19 hot spot in the nation at the time, and conditions in the prison attracted national attention, including a harrowing June 22, 2020, New Yorker exposé. On April 21, the Arkansas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of several plaintiffs in various Arkansas prisons, filed a lawsuit accusing the state of having “utterly disregarded” guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and putting all prisoners at risk of infection. On April 24, 2020, the Board of Corrections voted unanimously to certify a list of 1,244 as eligible for early release to stem the spread of the disease in state prisons. By mid-May, four correctional facilities in the state had reported extensive outbreaks. In early August, the nonprofit Marshall Project described Arkansas’s prison outbreak as the worst in the nation.
Given the origins of the virus in China, and the willingness of many conservative politicians to cite this geographic origin in order to demonize the Chinese government, anti-Asian violence increased during the pandemic. Among the incidents documented in Arkansas was the April 5 vandalizing of Lao Temple in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). U.S. senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, regularly endorsed unfounded conspiracy theories that the disease was, in fact, a Chinese bioweapon and also repeatedly referred to SARS-CoV-2 as the “Wuhan virus” and insisted that China should compensate the United States for its economic losses. On April 9, 2020, during the opening session of the Arkansas General Assembly, state Senator Trent Garner proposed a bill to strip the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) of the $300,000 it was using to operate an office in China, but the bill failed to advance in the Senate. Cotton later co-sponsored a bill in the U.S. Senate that would allow private entities to sue China for damages; he also publicly stated that students from China should be forbidden to study science at American universities and later co-sponsored a bill to that effect. In May, Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge joined with other Republican attorneys general in demanding that Congress investigate the Chinese origins of the virus.
Early during the pandemic, Hutchinson issued an executive order calling for a halt to all elective surgeries in order to free up space needed for potential COVID-19 patients. However, given that other Republican governors had issued similar orders to try to crack down on legal abortion services in their states, many critics suspected that Hutchinson had similar aims with his order. After a Texas judge approved that state’s limit on abortion in response to the pandemic, the government of Arkansas became more aggressive against state abortion providers. However, the Little Rock affiliate of Planned Parenthood, which was a target of this order, provided only medication abortions, not surgical ones. On April 10, the Department of Health ordered Little Rock Family Planning Services to cease providing surgical abortion services unless necessary for the life or health of the patient. Four days later, Judge Kristine Baker temporarily barred the state from enforcing this order, but on April 22, 2020, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the ban. That same day, Hutchinson announced the lifting of the ban on elective surgeries.
The Hutchinson administration also took advantage of the pandemic to loosen state environmental regulations, following a similar step by the Trump administration, claiming that the loss of jobs left many regulated industries without the manpower to monitor pollution.
The April 13, 2020, death of one particular Arkansan made national headlines. Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker of Fort Smith had been aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt when the virus began to spread among the crew. The captain of the vessel, Brett Crozier, wrote a letter to other naval officers complaining about the lack of plan for testing and treating his crew while the carrier was docked and quarantined at the island of Guam. This letter was made public, resulting in the Trump administration sacking Crozier and then sending acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, to Guam to address the crew. This address was then, itself, made public, revealing that Modly had disparaged Crozier as “stupid,” and Modly was subsequently forced to resign.
Trump regularly either declared that he had the authority to “open up” the country or attempted to goad governors into lifting restrictions they had set, in large part to lift the economy and thus ostensibly assure his reelection. First, he established Easter (April 12) as a date for this, and then he pivoted to May 1, even while most epidemiologists insisted that practices of social distancing would need to continue past May to stem the spread of the virus. However, on April 17, 2020, Hutchinson announced May 4 as his target date for the lifting of restrictions. On April 28, 2020, Hutchinson moved to lift restrictions at state parks, allowing visitors once again to stay overnight in their vehicles or at cabins, as well as to eat at park restaurants. The following day, he announced that state restaurants would be allowed to resume in-person dining at a limited level starting May 11. He later decreed that, with restrictions, gyms could reopen on May 4, while salons, barbers, body art studios, massage therapists, and the like could reopen on May 6. Casinos were given a date of May 18 for reopening, while swimming pools, water parks, and similar venues were given a date of May 22. However, in mid-May, after the state logged 130 new (non-prison) cases in one day, Hutchinson delayed the second phase of relaxing restrictions. On May 20, he personally visited Trump in Washington DC to assure him that Arkansas was “back to work.” The following day, the state experienced its largest one-day jump in cases with the announcement of 455 new positive tests.
Hutchinson announced on June 10 that the state was moving toward “Phase 2” of reopening, despite the spike in cases expected following Memorial Day, and despite the state not meeting its own criteria for doing so. That same day, the Washington County Medical Center issued a statement asserting that, contrary to the governor’s assertions, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases was not due to increased testing but, rather, to an increased spread of the disease.
On March 28, an EF-3 tornado hit the city of Jonesboro, doing major damage to several significant businesses, including the Turtle Creek Mall. However, no one was killed despite the damage, which authorities attributed to the lack of shoppers and diners due to the pandemic.
The pandemic tended to affect those already beset by economic hardships and the health problems that arise from them. In Arkansas, for example, at the time of the pandemic, African Americans constituted 15.7 percent of the population, but they made up 23.5 percent of state residents to test positive. In northwestern Arkansas, the Marshallese community was particularly hard hit, accounting for half of the region’s deaths by mid-June despite representing only some three percent of the population. In late July, the state appropriated $7 million in funding to tackle the pandemic among the hard-hit Marshallese and Latino communities in northwestern Arkansas, though a revolt by Republican lawmakers initially delayed the appropriation. In late December 2020, a federal relief package passed by Congress restored Medicaid benefits to Marshall Islanders living in the United States.
The pandemic also interfered with the political process in many ways, for example by making it difficult for various citizens groups to gather signatures for ballot petitions or independent and third-party candidates by the July 3 deadline. A lawsuit filed on April 22 in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville (Washington County) sought more time for such petitions. A federal judge ruled the following month blocking the requirement that petition signatures be witnessed in person, but he refused to extend the deadline for the submission of petitions. For the national election, Arkansas secretary of state John Thurston allowed voters to apply for an absentee ballot due to the pandemic, but state government did not implement measures to make it easier for voters otherwise.
On April 29, Hutchinson announced a $15 million grant program to help the state’s businesses with the costs of reopening. The website through which such businesses were to apply for funds opened—not the following day, as had been announced—but instead three and a half hours after the governor’s press conference. More than 2,000 applications poured in over the following hour, mostly from those businesses connected to paid lobbyists who got word that the site was up earlier than announced, thus shutting out other state businesses. The state Democratic Party called for an investigation of the Ready for Business program, as it was called, and even Republican legislators complained about the rollout of the grant program. In response, Hutchinson offered another round of grants totaling $85 million, though opposition in the state Senate later cut this down to $40 million. Requests for grants topped $147 million, and the fund was later boosted to $147.7 million.
In response to the growing number of people unable to work, Central Arkansas Water temporarily suspended all shut-off of services for non-payment, and some judges suspended eviction proceedings. On May 1, 2020, protestors gathered at the Governor’s Mansion to call for an end to evictions and a freeze on rent payments. Hutchinson refused to consider instituting any hold on evictions in the state, despite the pandemic-related unemployment problem, in contrast with many other governors. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on one case, that of a woman with disabilities named Tracee March, who was served with a civil eviction lawsuit on April 23 by Allred Properties of Fayetteville, despite her having contracted COVID-19 and being under quarantine, in addition to being unable to go to her bank to get the money for rent, as was required by her disability payments.
The pandemic notably scuttled the national release of a movie filmed the state. Glenwood (Pike County) native Clark Duke’s directorial debut, Arkansas, based upon a novel of the same name, was scheduled to premiere at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, but when that festival was shut down due to the pandemic, the movie was re-routed to streaming services, where it nonetheless found an audience. Among the many celebrities who contracted or died of COVID-19 or related complications was country singer K. T. Oslin, a native of Ashley County, who died on December 21, 2020. Nationally acclaimed architect Michael LeJong, a native of Greenwood (Sebastian County), died on July 19, 2021. His death was later made the centerpiece of a Wall Street Journal story on vaccine resistance. On September 4, 2021, Rickie Lee “Ricochet” Reynolds, guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas, died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in Memphis, Tennessee.
On June 16, 2020, the city council in Fayetteville passed an ordinance requiring the wearing of face masks in public spaces. Little Rock announced plans shortly afterward to implement a similar requirement, despite statements from officials in the governor’s office that this would contravene state law. On July 3, Hutchinson signed an executive order allowing municipalities to adopt requirements for face masks. Later in the month, Walmart announced that it was mandating masks for all shoppers, and Hutchinson announced a statewide mask mandate, although many county sheriffs openly stated their refusal to enforce it.
On July 9, Hutchinson stated that he would delay the start of school in the state for a week in order to give school districts more time to prepare for the in-person instruction his administration would be demanding. However, the reopening of schools remained contentious, especially as administration officials, encouraged and pressured by the Trump administration, were pushing reopening plans even as case numbers began to rise. On July 27, Hutchinson announced that the state would be spending $10 million it had received in federal funding on wi-fi access devices for families. On July 31, he announced that his administration would permit high school athletic competitions to proceed, despite evidence that sporting events are liable to spread the virus due to the close contact required. The administration subsequently announced that schools had to offer in-person instruction five days a week.
The Salt Bowl, with Bryant High School playing Benton High School in War Memorial Stadium, made national news for being the first sizeable sporting event to open with a live spectators in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic; it was also the first year the football game was made available on pay-per-view.
Hendrix College and Lyon College both announced in July 2020 that they would be offering fall-semester classes entirely online. Most other colleges and universities, however, did open to in-person classes or some mix of in-person and online instruction. By Labor Day (September 7), the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville had logged more than 920 active cases of COVID-19. By the end of September, several schools across the state had announced a shift to exclusively virtual instruction due to local outbreaks among students and/or staff. However, the school district in Prescott (Nevada County) shifted instruction to virtual for senior high football players in order “to help us salvage the season” and allow football to continue to be played.
In October, due to rising hospitalizations, Hutchinson extended his state of emergency. That same month, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen dismissed a lawsuit filed by some members of the governor’s own Republican Party, who had accused Hutchinson of exceeding his authority in responding to the pandemic. The pandemic worsened both in the state and nationally as colder weather settled across the nation, driving people indoors, and by mid-November, Arkansas was beginning to see daily totals of more than 2,000 new diagnoses, numbers that soon started to strain the state’s health system. After weeks of criticism for his failure to implement new measures to stem the pandemic, on November 19, Hutchinson implemented a curfew on businesses that sell and allow consumption of alcohol on their premises, which were now required to close at 11:00 p.m. This decision came one day after Dr. Heather Young, a state pediatric infectious disease doctor, released a letter signed by 270 other physicians asking the governor to implement greater restrictions on social gatherings.
In December 2020, the state began logging daily case increases in the high 2,000s or low 3,000s as intensive care units (ICUs) neared capacity, with approximately a third of beds being occupied by patients suffering from COVID-19. The state topped 200,000 total cases on December 19. Reporting that month by the Marshall Project and the Associated Press revealed that some four out of seven inmates in the state had tested positive for the disease, in contrast with a nationwide average of one out of every five. On January 1, 2021, the state case load jumped by 4,304.
The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine against COVID-19 arrived in Arkansas on December 14. The first shipment of the Moderna vaccine arrived on December 21. The state authorized the vaccines for certain categories of citizens, beginning with medical personnel and first responders. However, by the middle of January 2021, the Arkansas was lagging behind other states in actually vaccinating people. By January 9, 2021, Arkansas had reached a total of 4,000 dead and a record high of 27,822 active cases. By February 4, total deaths passed 5,000. However, infections began declining over the month of February, leading Hutchinson, on February 26, to lift almost all state directives that had been implemented to slow the spread of the virus—all save the state mask mandate—despite concerns that the slow rate of vaccination would only, in the absence of continual efforts at mitigation, almost certainly lead to a new wave of infections and deaths. In fact, not long after Hutchinson’s decision, it was announced that a variant of the virus (commonly called the UK variant due to its discovery in the United Kingdom, and later redubbed the Alpha variant) had been detected in the state. The slow rollout of the vaccine through March led many Arkansans to travel to neighboring states where vaccinations were available for their particular categories. On a March 14, 2021, appearance on Face the Nation, Hutchinson admitted on that the low rate of vaccination in Arkansas was partly “because in Arkansas, it’s a very pro-Trump state in terms of the last election.”
In early March, the U.S. Congress passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. All of the state’s senators and representatives voted against the bill. Arkansas’s share of the federal relief monies consisted of $1.7 billion in state fiscal relief, $1 billion in local relief, and $1.2 billion for schools—a total that did not include the direct payments and tax credits for individuals and families. Hutchinson publicly lamented that a provision in the funding prevented states from using the money to advance tax cuts. On March 18, 2021, Hutchinson activated twenty National Guard members to assist the state with its vaccination clinics.
By the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, the state had lost 5,500 people to the disease. In late March 2021, UAMS closed its dedicated COVID-19 unit, citing fewer active infections. However, state vaccination rates continued to lag. A March 25, 2021, report by the Department of Health found that Arkansas was in possession of approximately 800,000 unused vaccine doses. Despite this, Governor Hutchinson continued his refusal to expand the categories of people permitted to be vaccinated until March 30, 2021, when he opened up vaccine availability to all age sixteen and above. That same day, he also dropped the statewide mask mandate, although many municipalities and school districts around the state announced that they would be maintaining their own mandates for the near future. On April 15, the Arkansas House and Arkansas Senate both passed resolutions removing the plexiglass barriers that had been installed to prevent the spread of the disease. That same day, the number of vaccinated Arkansans hit twenty percent of the population. However, public acceptance of the utility of vaccines, and willingness to be vaccinated, lagged, especially among the more politically conservative members of the population. Republican state politicians were eager to appeal to these people during the 2021 legislative session, with Hutchinson signing into law on April 28, 2021, measures that would prohibit proof of vaccination as a condition of employment and to access public services. That same day, Hutchinson signed into law Act 977, which prohibits the “state, a state agency or entity, a political subdivision of the state, or a state or local official” from mandating or requiring “an individual to receive a vaccine or immunization for coronavirus 2019.” Near the end of the month, the state was cutting back on its federal vaccine orders due to low demand, and on April 29, the state stopped vaccine orders entirely in order to use up the present stock. That same day, Hutchinson signed legislation banning local and state mask mandates, with the prohibition to take effect in the summer. On May 7, he directed the state to refuse supplemental federal unemployment assistance payments of $300 a week starting on June 26; however, on July 29, Pulaski Circuit Judge Herb Wright ordered those federal benefits reinstated.
Hutchinson announced on May 25 that the state would offer lottery tickets and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission gift certificates as incentives for people to get COVID-19 vaccines; he said at that time that CDC figures showed that fifty percent of Arkansas adults had received at least one shot, although the rate of vaccination lagged behind the national average. On June 22, the state had 485 new cases, the highest jump in cases since March 5 (when vaccines were not yet open to all Arkansans). That day also saw 285 hospitalized, with 128 of those in the ICU. By early July, Arkansas was leading the nation in rates of new infections, largely due to the more transmissible delta variant which was first detected in India, as well as the low rates of vaccination. On July 6, state hospitalizations jumped by the largest number since January 2021; the following day, new daily cases jumped by 1,000, marking the beginning of a new surge in the state. By July 13, the city of Chicago added Arkansas and Missouri to its travel advisory list. Hospitals in the state quickly reached capacity; localized outbreaks were observed among Arkansas National Guard soldiers training in Louisiana and among attendees of Camp Siloam, a Christian summer camp located in Siloam Springs (Benton County); Arkansas Governor’s School switched to remote education after three weeks of in-person instruction due to three students and one faculty member testing positive. On June 19, total deaths attributed to the virus surpassed 6,000; the number of active cases topped 10,000 for the first time since February 15; the state saw its largest one-day rise in hospitalizations; and Arkansas Children’s Hospital confirmed a growing number of COVID hospitalizations among children, with about half of them being critically ill (two deaths would be reported on July 22, marking the first pediatric deaths in the state). However, state Senator Trent Garner of El Dorado, who had sponsored or co-sponsored many of the laws that prevent state or local governments from implementing measures to mitigate the effect of the virus, told KNWA that he would not consider supporting a mask mandate unless the mortality rate from the pandemic reached thirty percent, or roughly on par with the worst historical outbreaks of smallpox. State Democratic legislators, meanwhile, began to call for a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly in order to repeal the ban on local mask ordinances. On July 24, 2021, the state once again broke 2,000 new cases. By July 27, every county in the state of Arkansas was labeled by the CDC as having high community transmission of the virus, driven largely by the delta variant, which was more transmissible than the original form of the virus and which proved more capable of infecting already vaccinated persons..
On July 29, after a daily increase in documented infections of 2,843, Gov. Hutchinson announced that he was proclaiming a public health emergency, to last for sixty days, and that he planned to call a special session of the legislature in order to amend Act 1002 in order to allow local school boards to make their own policies for mask mandates, although the ban on such mandates would remain in place for institutions of higher education and government agencies. That same day, President Joe Biden announced that all federal employees and on-site contractors would be required to be vaccinated or be required to wear masks and undergo repeated testing for the virus. In Arkansas, it largely remained up to private institutions to safeguard their patients and customers from the disease. Early in July, the Mercy health system, with hospitals in Fort Smith and Rogers (Benton County), began mandating vaccinations for all staff, and by the end of the month, Arkansas Heart Hospital had done likewise. When the owners of White Water Tavern, which closed its doors in March 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic, announced that they would reopen in August 2021, they specified that entrance would require proof vaccination or a negative COVID test; other venues soon followed, such as Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, while the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra announced it would require proof of vaccination to attend in-person performances. On July 30, Walmart announced that it was resuming mandatory masking for employees, regardless of vaccination status, in COVID hotspots; the company also issued a vaccination mandate for corporate workers and regional managers, but not its other employees. That same day, the Clinton Presidential Center, which had temporarily reopened, announced its closure once more due to the pandemic.
However, the governor’s promotion of vaccination was greatly hindered by some state officials promoting untested treatments for the disease, as well as by hostilility to such public health initiatives. State Senator Jason Rapert of Bigelow (Perry County), for example, regularly pushed the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which had been praised by President Trump, as an alternative to other COVID-19 treatments, while state Senator Gary Stubblefield of Branch (Franklin County) revealed in April 2021, months after vaccination of the population had begun, that he had been consuming Ivermectin, a cattle dewormer, to prevent infection. At a forum on July 30 in Siloam Springs, Gov. Hutchinson was frequently heckled for trying to convince locals to be vaccinated. On August 1, protestors gathered outside Mercy hospitals in Fort Smith and Rogers in opposition to the organization mandating vaccination for employees. The following day, at a meeting of the legislature’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor Joint Committee, state Representative Mary Bentley of Perryville (Perry County), a former nurse, recommended treating COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine and cattle dewormer rather than working to vaccinate the population. Meanwhile, the state saw the biggest one-day jump in hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, and the first lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of Act 1002, the ban on mask mandates, was filed in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County. News also broke that the school district in Marion (Crittenden County), which had begun the school year on July 26, had more than 500 students and staff were in quarantine by the second week of classes; this was out of a total of approximately 4,000 students and had 500 employees. The number increased to more than 800 students and staff in quarantine by August 5, and by August 11, more than 1,200 students were in quarantine, with 100 confirmed cases of the disease.
On August 3, Tyson Foods announced that it was requiring its entire U.S. workforce to be vaccinated. That same day, Hutchinson formally called for a special session to address the mask mandate, as well as to ask legislators to “to affirm the decision of the director of Workforce Services to terminate Arkansas’s participation in extraordinary federal unemployment benefit and relief programs related to COVID-19.” On August 4, the first day of the special session, Rep. Julie Mayberry of Hensley (Pulaski County) introduced a bill to allow public school boards to enact mask mandates under very limited circumstances. The bill would have applied only to school property and buses serving children under the age of twelve in districts that had a fourteen-day infection rate of at least fifty new documented infections per 10,000 residents of said district; the school board would have to vote to enact the mandate, which could last no longer than sixty days, to be renewed with a new vote if the infection rate remained high. The bill, however, failed to make it out of committee, as did another mask-related bill advanced by Democrats , although both House and Senate public health committees easily passed bills aimed at terminating the state’s participation in federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefits. That same day, private higher-education institutions Hendrix College and John Brown University both instituted mask mandates for the coming semester, and CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System paused non-emergency procedures to conserve resources.
On August 5, the Little Rock and Marion school districts filed suit against the state regarding the ban on mask mandates, and Mayor Frank Scott of Little Rock announced the resumption of a mask mandate for all public spaces in the city, insisting, “We believe that our power cannot be taken when it comes to protecting the residents and their public safety and health and welfare.” In addition, hospitalizations hit a six-month high, and the state recorded its third pediatric death from the virus. On August 6, the legislature adjourned its special session, having only passed the bill to end federal unemployment benefits. However, later that same day, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against the law banning mask mandates on multiple grounds, including that it discriminated between private and public schools, usurped judicial authority, limited gubernatorial emergency powers, and infringed upon the power of local officials. (On September 30, the Arkansas Supreme Court refused the state’s request for a stay of Judge Fox’s order.) The city council of Fayetteville that evening held an emergency meeting and unanimously passed a new ordinance on masking; other cities soon followed. On that same day, the state also recorded more than 3,000 new confirmed cases of the virus; this increase meant that the state also broke 400,000 total documented cases since the beginning of the pandemic. August 9 witnessed the largest increase in hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic, with an additional 103 being hospitalized, for a total of 1,376, itself a record, too. Even in the face of this, school boards in Benton (Saline County) and Sheridan (Grant County), among others voted to make the wearing of masks voluntary. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway (Faulkner County) became the first public institution of higher education to require face coverings for the fall semester. The University of Arkansas System soon afterward implemented a policy of face coverings at all system campuses, and the Arkansas State University System followed suit.
Despite the expressed opposition of Tyson Foods and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, on August 10, Senator Bob Ballinger of Ozark (Franklin County) filed a bill, for the Senate to take up following its recess, that would prevent private businesses from requiring employees be vaccinated. On August 13, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced her intention to appeal Judge Fox’s ruling temporarily striking down Act 1002, pitting her against Gov. Hutchinson, who had praised Fox’s ruling. That same day, the state once again broke 3,000 new cases of COVID-19, with active cases including nearly 5,000 children. However, the state also witnessed renewed interest in vaccination, with the Arkansas Department of Health reporting 14,499 shots given for August 14. On August 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full authorization to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which had previously, like all the other vaccines, been operating under emergency approval. The next day, officials announced that the state had reached full ICU capacity. News also broke that inmates at the jail in Washington County had been prescribed Ivermectin by Dr. Bob Karas for treating COVID-19, despite FDA warnings against this; reportedly, Karas told his patients that the pills were vitamins.
On August 27, Lonoke Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore refused to block face covering requirements instituted by the school district in Cabot (Lonoke County). By September 2, the official state death toll from the disease broke 7,000. On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced vaccination requirements for every federal employee and contractor, the staff of any institution receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding, and the staff of any business with 100 or more employees. This move was opposed by the Gov. Hutchinson and the state’s U.S. senators and representatives. By September 13, 2021, Arkansas finally achieved a vaccination rate of fifty percent of residents twelve years and older, although it still remained in the bottom ten states for overall vaccination rate. Conway Regional Health System received national attention in September for the manner in which it handled its policy of religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine, which the system mandated for employees. The hospital asked those seeking such exemptions to demonstrate a consistency of belief by signing a form stating that they refrained from taking any medication developed using fetal cells, including over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Pepto Bismol.
On September 29, 2021, the Arkansas General Assembly was called back into session primarily to oversee work on redistricting. However, Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, the presiding officer (and himself a candidate for attorney general at the time), ruled that the legislature could consider bills relating broadly to the pandemic, given the vague wording of the resolution that called for the legislature’s extended recess earlier in the year. As a consequence, more than a dozen bills relating to the pandemic were filed, including eight bills relating to employee-mandated vaccination, such as SB 731, which would prohibit employers from requiring the disclosure of an employee’s vaccination status, while also distributing pandemic relief funds to individuals who believe themselves injured by any violation thereof. Likewise, HB 1972 would exempt individuals from any federal or employer vaccination mandates and authorize unemployment benefits for those dismissed from their jobs due to a refusal to vaccinate. (Some bills would have used federal relief money to pay unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated despite the illegality of doing such.) Eight of these bills were subsequently passed out of committee with no discussion or opportunity for public input, although later they were returned to committee for public comment. By the end of the week, no bills actually addressing redistricting, the ostensible reason for the session, were placed on the calendar, although on October 1, 2021, committees in the Arkansas House and Senate advanced identical bills to provide exemptions to federal and employer vaccine mandates. That same day, the official COVID-19 death toll for the nation surpassed 700,000, making it the deadliest pandemic in American history, overtaking the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and 1919.
On October 4, the Arkansas Senate passed three bills aimed at placating those who refused to be vaccinated: SB 739 by Sen. Ken Hammer of Benton, which would require employers mandating vaccination to provide an exemption process for employees; Sen. Garner’s SB 730, which would make eligible for unemployment benefits those who left or lost work due to a refusal to be vaccinated; and SB 732, written by Sen. Blake Johnson of Corning (Clay County), which would prohibit any legal or commercial entity from “coercing” someone to receive a vaccination. On October 5, HB 1977 by Rep. Joshua Bryant of Rogers passed the House, while the House took up the nearly identical SB 739 after it passed committee. However, Gov. Hutchinson, that same day, finally spoke out against the pending legislation, saying, “We should not fight federal overreach with a solution that causes more problems than it solves.” HB 1977 passed the Senate the next day, but without an emergency clause, so that it could not take effect immediately, and was briefly returned to the Senate in an (unsuccessful) attempt to get such a clause attached; meanwhile, SB 739 passed the House, also without an emergency clause. That same day, Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan struck down the mask mandate instituted by the Bentonville School District. On October 7, the state exceeded 500,000 total recorded cases for the duration of the pandemic, with the last 100,000 cases being logged in only the previous two months. That same day, SB 731 passed the Senate, but it was voted down in the house the next day.
On October 13, Gov. Hutchinson allowed the two nearly identical bills to become law without his signature, observing that, without a veto to override, the legislature would adjourn later that week.
For additional information:
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———. “State Reports Jump in Virus Cases of 4,304.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 2, 2021, pp. 1A, 5A.
Findell, Elizabeth, and Kris Maher. “Neighbors’ Deaths from Covid-19 Have an Arkansas Town Reassessing Vaccines.” Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2021. Online at https://www.wsj.com/articles/neighbors-deaths-from-covid-19-have-an-arkansas-town-reassessing-vaccines-11628424001 (accessed August 9, 2021).
Flaherty, Joseph. “Covid Deaths Top 900 Mark in State Count.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 8, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “LR Advancing Plan for Virus Screening Site.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 16, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
———. “LR Move Rebuffs State on Mask Law.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 6, 2021, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Power, Water to Keep Flowing.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 18, 2020, pp. 1B, 2B.
———. “Prison’s Outbreak Spreading Unease outside the Walls.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 17, 2020, pp. 1A, 8A.
———. “State Easing up on Rules to Watch, Curb Pollution.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 3, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “State’s Covid-19 Deaths Surpass 400.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 27, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
Flaherty, Joseph, and John Moritz. “Emails Detail Talks on Illness at Prison.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 15, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Mills, Factories Ramp up Efforts to Rein in Virus.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 21, 2020, pp. 1B, 2B.
Hammersley, Lisa. “Experts See Pandemic as Test for State’s Public-Meetings Law.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 22, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
Harris, Adam. “A Southern Mayor Takes on the Coronavirus.” Atlantic, April 17, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-little-rock-arkansas/609979/ (accessed July 15, 2021).
Hennigan, Mary, Abby Zimmardi and Rachell Sanchez-Smith. “At Least 9,000 Arkansas Workers Caught COVID-19 as Pandemic Overwhelmed Regulators, Companies.” Howard Center for Investigative Journalist, May 12, 2021. https://cnsmaryland.org/2021/05/12/at-least-9000-arkansas-workers-caught-covid-19-as-pandemic-overwhelmed-regulators-companies/ (accessed September 2, 2021).
Herzog, Rachel. “Analysis Aims to Separate Covid-19 Facts from Fiction.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 15, 2021, pp. 1A, 8A.
———. “Library System Pares Staffing.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 1, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B.
———. “Legislators Look at Blocking Employer Vaccine Mandates.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 11, 2021, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Lines Long at LR Food Giveaway.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 29, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “LR Unveils Initiatives to Stem Virus’s Effect.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 30, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Mask Leeway for Schools Fail.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 6, 2021, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Order in State Curbs Lodging for Recreation.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 5, 2020, pp. 1A, 10A.
———. “Senate Replies to Shot Mandate.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 5, 2021, pp. 1A, 3A.
Herzog, Rachel, and Jeannie Roberts. “Covid-19 Bills Advance, but Fit for Session at Issue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 30, 2021, pp. 1A, 7A.
Herzog, Rachel, and Michael R. Wickline. “Shot-Mandate Constraint Defeated.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette October 9, 2021, pp. 1A, 7A.
Herzog, Rachel, Michael R. Wickline, and Stephen Simpson. “School Mask Bill Pitched in House.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 5, 2021, pp. 1A, 5A.
Herzog, Rachel, and Stephen Simpson. “LR Mayor Orders Citywide Curfew.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 17, 2020, pp. 1A, 3A.
———. “LR, NLR Close Parks to Prevent Spread of Virus.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 3, 2020, p. 2B.
Herzog, Rachel, Stephen Simpson, and Dale Ellis. “Municipalities Expect Revenue Hit.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 30, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
Holt, Tony. “$10M Allotted for Rural Hospitals.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 19, 2020, pp. 1A, 8A.
———. “Fearful Shoppers Going for Toilet Paper.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Ill after Europe Trip, Ex-Lawmaker’s Wife Dies at 62.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 19, 2020, p. 8A.
———. “In State’s Hub, VA Gears up on Virus.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 21, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Navy IDs Sailor Dead from Illness as Arkansan.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 20, 2020, p. 7B.
———. “State Pledges to Ease Process on Jobless Aid.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 29, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Holt, Tony, and Bill Bowden. “Newly Jobless Finding Benefit Process a Slog.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 25, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
Howell, Cynthia. “LR, Marion Districts Sue State over Mask-Rule Ban.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 6, 2021, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “LR School Board OKs Suit over Mask-Rule Ban.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 5, 2021, pp. 1B, 5B.
———. “Paper, Digital Lessons Strategy in Shutdown.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 4, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Plans in Works to Get Food, Internet to Kids.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Schools Make Switch to Home Studies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 18, 2020, pp. 1B, 2B.
Howell, Cynthia, and Emily Walkenhorst. “Schools Face New Normal during Virus Shutdown.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 17, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
James, Allison, et al. “High COVID-19 Attack Rate Among Attendees at Events at a Church—Arkansas, March 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e2.htm?s_cid=mm6920e2_w (accessed July 15, 2021).
Jones, Francisca. “Caution Cancels Religious Services.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Churches Welcome Back Congregations after Two Months.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 11, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Food Pantries Adapt to Halt Spread of Virus.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 21, 2020, pp. 4B, 5B.
Jones, Francisca, and Eric Besson. “34 Positive Cases Linked to Greers Ferry Church.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 24, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
———. “Ill Congregation Struggling, Says Church’s Pastor.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 25, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
Jones, Matt. “UA Coaches React to Lost Campaigns.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, 2020, pp. 1C, 3C.
LaFraniere, Sharon. “In Undervaccinated Arkansas, Covid Upends Life All over Again.” New York Times, July 17, 2021. Online at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/17/us/arkansas-covid-19-vaccine.html (accessed July 19, 2021).
Lockwood, Frank E. “Arkansans’ Travel Disrupted.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 16, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Arkansas Open, Trump Told.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 21, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Defiant Church Faces Order to Halt Services.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 4, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “GOP’s Vaccination Skeptics ‘Troubling,’ Hutchinson Says.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Hill Named to Panel Overseeing Virus Aid.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 18, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “State’s Case Total Rises 107, Topping 6,000.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 26, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Lynch, John. “Courthouse on Hiatus; Courts Scale Way Back.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Judge Rejects Suit Opposing Virus Orders.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 15, 2020, pp. 1B, 10B.
Lynch, John, Rachel Herzog, and Cynthia Howell. “Judge Finds Law on Masks Illegal on Several Fronts.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 7, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A, 7A.
Magsam, John. “State Ammo Makers Fully Loaded.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 5, 2020, pp. 1G, 8G.
Mayer, Jane. “How Trump Is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic.” New Yorker, July 20, 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/07/20/how-trump-is-helping-tycoons-exploit-the-pandemic (accessed July 15, 2021).
McKay, Serenah. “1Q Loss at $162M for Dillard’s.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 15, 2020, pp. 1D, 4D.
Michaels, Samantha. “Want to Know How Fast Coronavirus Can Spread in Prison? Look at Arkansas.” Mother Jones, April 13, 2020. https://www.motherjones.com/coronavirus-updates/2020/04/cummins-unit-prison-arkansas-coronavirus-spread/ (accessed July 15, 2021).
Millar, Lindsey. “Social Security Numbers, Banking Information Left Unprotected on Arkansas PUA Website.” Arkansas Times, May 15, 2020. https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2020/05/15/social-security-numbers-banking-information-left-unprotected-on-arkansas-pua-website (accessed July 15, 2021).
Millar, Lindsey, Austin Bailey, Stephanie Smittle, and Rhett Brinkley. “Arkansas Medical Experts Weigh in on Past, Present and Future of COVID-19.” Arkansas Times, march 2021, pp. 24–37. Online at https://arktimes.com/news/cover-stories/2021/03/04/arkansas-medical-experts-weigh-in-on-past-present-and-future-of-covid-19 (accessed July 15, 2021).
Minta, Molly. “Incarcerated, Infected and Ignored: Inside the Cummins Prison Outbreak.” Arkansas Times, June 18, 2020. https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2020/06/18/incarcerated-infected-and-ignored-inside-the-cummins-prison-outbreak (accessed July 15, 2021).
Monk, Ginny. “2nd Virus Case at a Shelter Raises Concern for Homeless.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 29, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Helping Homeless, Stopping Virus a Fine Balance.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 17, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Ill with Coronavirus, Woman Faced Eviction.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 11, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Pot Bangers in LR Urge Break for State’s Renters.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 2, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “State’s Active Cases of Virus Hit Record; Deaths Top 4,000.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 10, 2020, pp. 1A, 8A.
Monk, Ginny, and Kat Stromquist. “State Nursing Homes Hunker Down.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 19, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
Moreau, Andrew. “13,000 State Companies Already in Loan Pipeline.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 22, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Banks Struggle for Computer Access to SBA Loans.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Virus Toll Projections Indicate Dire Times ahead for State Economy.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 29, 2020, pp. 1G, 2G.
Moritz, John. “44 of 47 Inmates Infected in Cummins Prison Barracks.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 14, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “$7M in Virus Aid OK’d for State’s NW.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 29, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
———. “Arkansas Cases Top 2,000, Officials Say.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 21, 2020, pp. 1A, 8A.
———. “Arkansas Plans to Watch, Learn as 2 States Reopen.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “CDC to Aid Response at Forrest City Prison.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 8, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Critics Contend Prison System Callous.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 26, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
———. “Federal Prison Has Positive Tests.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 4, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Governor Signs Orders to Tackle Virus-Led Issues.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 16, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Health Official Called Right Man for the Time.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 29, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B.
———. “Inmates Sue over Virus Spread.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 22, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Prisons, Jails Take Steps to Protect Inmates’ Health.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2020, pp. 1A, 3A.
———. “Some State Lawmen Balk at Mask Order.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 18, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A,
———. “State’s Covid-19 Cases Top 50,000; Deaths Rise by 11.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 11, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Students to Get Home Wi-Fi Aid.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 28, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Virus Deaths at 39 in State’s Prisons.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 8, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
Moritz, John, and Andrew Moreau. “State’s Case Total Surpasses 3,000.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 27, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Moritz, John, and Andy Davis. “Coronavirus Count Tops 20,000; Deaths Rise by 1.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 30, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
Moritz, John, and Cynthia Howell. “Agencies Keep Lid on Crisis Plans.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, pp. 1A, 13A.
Moritz, John, and Frank E. Lockwood. “Abortion Clinic Told to Pause Surgeries.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 11, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Moritz, John, and Ginny Monk. “State Courts Limit Most In-Person Proceedings; Jury Trials Continue.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 18, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
Murphy, Tom. “Restrictions Spread.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2020, pp. 1C, 5C.
Onion, Rebecca. “The South’s Resistance to Vaccination Is Not as Incomprehensible as It Seems.” Slate, October 1, 2021. https://slate.com/human-interest/2021/10/red-covid-southern-vaccine-resistance.html (accessed October 1, 2021).
Oman, Noel. “Airliners Wait in State to Fly Again.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 10, 2020, pp. 1D, 2D.
Owens, Nathan. “Meatpacking Workers Stay on Line in State.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 5, 2020, pp. 1G, 8G.
———. “Risk Up on Poultry Lines.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 13, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Tyson Set to Require Shots for Workers.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 4, 2021, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “Tyson Warns of U.S. Meat Shortage.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Paschal, Olivia. “Business Interests Monopolize Arkansas’ Economic Recovery Task Force.” Facing South, July 23, 2020. https://www.facingsouth.org/2020/07/business-interests-monopolize-arkansas-economic-recovery-task-force (accessed July 15, 2021).
———. “COVID-19 Pounded Arkansas Poultry Workers as Government and Industry Looked On.” Facing South, August 21, 2020. https://www.facingsouth.org/2020/08/covid-19-pounded-arkansas-poultry-workers-government-and-industry-looked (accessed July 15, 2021).
———. “The Disastrous Opening of One Arkansas School District.” The Nation, August 30, 2021. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/arkansas-school-quarantine-mask-covid-19/ (accessed August 31, 2021).
Peacock, Leslie Newell. “Vaccines a Shot in the Arm for a State Burdened by COVID-19.” Arkansas Times, January 2021, pp. 22–26. https://arktimes.com/news/cover-stories/2020/12/23/vaccines-a-shot-in-the-arm-for-a-state-burdened-by-covid-19 (accessed July 15, 2021).
———. “UAMS Nurse Talks about Tending the Sickest of the COVID-19 Sick.” Arkansas Times, May 2020, pp. 20–22. Online at https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2020/04/24/uams-nurse-talks-about-tending-the-sickest-of-the-covid-19-sick (accessed July 15, 2021).
Perez, Juan, Jr. “Friday Night Lights: The South Braces for Fall Football Crowds.” Politico, August 25, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/25/arkansas-high-school-football-coronavirus-401857 (accessed July 15, 2021).
Pompeo, Joe. “Inside the Viral Spread of a Coronavirus Origin Theory.” Vanity Fair, April 10, 2020. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/04/inside-the-the-viral-spread-of-a-coronavirus-origin-theory (accessed July 15, 2021).
Potts, Monica. “My Community Refuses to Get Vaccinated. Now Delta Is Here.” Atlantic, July 21, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/07/arkansas-cases-covid-19/619515/ (accessed July 21, 2021).
“Poultry & Pandemic: Meat Industry Workers and COVID-19.” Facing South series. https://www.facingsouth.org/series/poultry-pandemic-meat-industry-workers-and-covid-19 (accessed July 30, 2021).
Ramsey, David. “Where Are Arkansans Catching COVID-19?” Arkansas Times, January 2021, pp. 27–29.
Roberts, Jeannie. “First Moderna Dosages Arrive; More This Week.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 22, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Shot-Mandate Opt-Outs Advance.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 6, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “State Hospitals Hit with 1,376 Covid Patients.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 10, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Vaccine’s Arrival Hailed in State.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 15, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Virus Exacts a Price.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 7, 2021, pp. 1A, 7A–8A.
Roberts, Jeannie, and Cynthia Howell. “State’s Covid Infections Top 500,000 Mark.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 8, 2021, pp. 1B, 5B.
Roberts, Jeannie, and Jaime Adame. “State Passes 50% Mark on Covid-19 Vaccinations.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 14, 2021, pp. 1A, 7A.
Roberts, Jeannie, and Kat Stromquist. “Arkansas Sees 2,238 Increase in Virus Cases.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 20, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “State Trails All Its Neighbors but Texas in Testing.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 21, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
Roberts, Jeannie, and Stephen Simpson. “Hospitalizations Hit 81 for State’s Top 1-Day Jump.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 3, 2021, pp. 1A, 4A.
Sanders, William. “Health Crisis Adds Strain on Animal Shelters.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
———. “Restaurants’ Fortunes Shift to Takeout, Delivery Orders.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 26, 2020, pp. 1B, 2B.
———. “Virus Means Changes for Law Enforcement.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 18, 2020, pp. 1B, 2B.
Satter, Linda. “Court Restores State’s Abortion Restriction.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 23, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “State, Facility Continue Fight over Abortion.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
Simpson, Stephen. “1st State Care Worker Dies of Virus’s Illness.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 20, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
Simpson, Stephen, and Rachel Herzog. “Libraries Shut the Doors, Find New Ways to Serve.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
Steed, Stephen. “$840M State Jobless-Aid Fund Seen as OK for Now.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 20, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Arkansans in Line for Farm Aid.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 21, 2020, pp. 1D, 4D.
Stitt, Anna. “COVID-19 Inside Arkansas Prisons: Virus Spreads through Inmate Populations and Staff.” KUAR, June 8, 2020. https://www.ualrpublicradio.org/post/covid-19-inside-arkansas-prisons-virus-spreads-through-inmate-populations-and-staff (accessed July 15, 2021).
Stromquist, Kat. “Parents Ask: Visits When?” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 8, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Shut State’s Schools, Governor Orders.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 16, 2020, pp. 1A, 4A.
———. “UAMS Helps Make Strides on Virus Science.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
———. “Vigilance Advised for Chronically Ill in State.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 22, 2020, pp. 1A, 9A.
Stromquist, Kat, and Eric Besson. “Nursing Homes Struggle to Keep Covid-19 at Bay.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 3, 2020, pp. 1A, 11A.
Tate, Byron. “First Confirmed Case Recalled.” Pine Bluff Commercial, March 11, 2021, pp. 1, 4.
Thaler, Gilad. “COVID Patients Fighting for Their Lives Are Still Refusing the Vaccine.” Vice, August 16, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/dyvjzm/covid-patients-who-wont-get-vaccinated-arkansas (accessed August 17, 2021).
Thompson, Doug. “Lines Long to Seek Jobless Benefits.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 1, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Suit Seeks More Time for Ballot Petitions.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 23, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Virus Testing Scarce among State’s Marshallese.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 7, 2020, pp. 1B, 8B.
Thompson, Doug, and Alex Golden. “Marshallese Hit Hard by Covid-19.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 14, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B.
Vrbin, Tess. “Day’s Vaccinations Hit 14,499 in Turnaround.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 15, 2021, pp. 1A, 8A.
———. “Virus’s Run in State Adds 2,015 Cases.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 25, 2021, pp. 1A, 10A.
Walkenhorst, Emily. “Arkansans Put at Higher Risk in Pandemic.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 20, 2020, pp. 1B, 6B.
———. “Hospitals Look at Ways to Add Bed Space, Staff.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 1, 2020, pp. 1B, 5B.
Walkenhorst, Emily, and Dave Perozek. “Shift to Remote Lost Some Students in State.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 11, 2020, pp. 1A, 12A, 13A.
Wickline, Michael R. “8 Bills on Shot Mandates Go Back to Panel.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 1, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Arkansas Said to Lag in Reserve Funding.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 22, 2020, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “Businesses Grant Fund Tapped Dry in Minutes.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 1, 2020, pp. 1A, 7A.
———. “Businesses’ Requests for Grants Top $147M.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 7, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
———. “Lawmakers Pass ‘Rainy-Day’ Funding.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 28, 2020, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “Legislature Backs End of Extra Unemployment Pay.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 6, 2021, p. 4A.
———. “Panels Back Shot Exemptions.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 2, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
———. “State Revenue Down by 28.3% Last Month.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 5, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
———. “Virus Prompts State to Cut Budget $353M.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 24, 2020, pp. 1A, 5A.
Wickline, Michael, and Rachel Herzog. “Anti-Mandate Bills OK’d.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 8, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A, 7A.
———. “Mandate Opt-Outs OK’d.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 7, 2021, pp. 1A, 6A.
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 10/13/2021