During the daily COVID-19 update Friday afternoon, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson expressed his concerns for COVID-19 outbreaks, linking them to multiple places.
Focusing on places of worship, Hutchinson displayed a map where in the 14 days prior to diagnosis, active COVID-19 patients had visited churches in the state of Arkansas.
Arkansas County was one of the places on the map that displayed a few cases linked to a place of worship.
Though there are a few churches in Arkansas that have had a cluster of cases, for the most part, Hutchinson says many of the state’s churches are adhering to the guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health.
“Nighty-eight percent of our churches are fully following the guidelines and the things that have been presented,” said Hutchinson. “They are being so careful and protecting their congregants but we’ve had a couple of incidents as reflected here where they did not follow the guidelines and it has resulted in some clusters of cases.”
ADH Secretary of Health, Dr. Nate Smith added that there have been some places of worship that have not followed those guidelines, have not implemented them effectively or fully, and because so, they have seen in some of those settings, a number of clusters.
The clusters are indicated by the red dots while the blue dots represent one to two cases.
“Those places of worship that have implemented the guidelines that we put out, we’re not seeing evidence of transmission,” said Smith. “If your place of worship is open to the public then it’s likely that you may have someone who has COVID-19 who comes to a worship service– but then does that participation in the worship service lead to additional cases.”
Smith said if the guidelines are not followed, then tragically it can cause the spread of COVID-19, which is what they have seen in a number of cases so far.
“You can have a number of cases break out and you can actually have some very ill people and people can die from this virus,” said Hutchinson who wants pastors and churches to realize the consequences of not following the guidelines.
Hutchinson said he has avoided giving directives to the church because he respects the separation between government action and the role of the church but asks that the guidelines be followed.
“They know these are important guidelines and by in large are being followed,” said Hutchinson. “In instances where we see they are not being followed , we will call the pastor, we’ll call the church leader, talk to them through it. We’ll address it in that fashion.”
Arkansas is currently in Phase 2 of reopening. To see church guidelines associated with this phase, click the link below.