LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas' largest city is imposing more restrictions, including a curfew, in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus as the number infections in the state continues to rise.
Mayor Frank Scott said Monday that a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. will be in effect in Little Rock beginning early Wednesday.
"This decision we did not take lightly at all," Scott said. The curfew will not apply to people traveling to or from work, and police won't stop vehicles for breaking the curfew, Scott said.
The mayor made the announcement shortly after the state Department of Health announced that the number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas had risen by six to 22.
Two of the new infections were found in people from who live in Cleburne County but had traveled out of state to a conference, health officials said. The other four contracted it in a healthcare setting. Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith said two of the cases were identified by testing in a private lab (see video below).
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Unlike several other states, Hutchinson stopped short of calling for restaurants and bars to close. But the governor said Monday that he was discouraging gatherings of more than 50 people.
House and Senate leaders said meetings of the Legislative Council this week were canceled and were working on a contingency plan for this year's session, which is set to begin April 8. Senate President Jim Hendren said they hadn't ruled out a potential postponement and the plan would likely include restrictions on crowd size.
“The odds we’re going to have a joint session with 135 members (of the Legislature) jammed on the floor of the House are pretty thin," Hendren said.
The state Board of Election Commissioners told local election officials Monday that they don't have the authority to cancel or postpone in-person voting for the March 31 primary runoff. The board said local officials could consider other changes, including consolidating polling locations, using social distancing techniques at sites and refraining from using at-risk poll workers.
Hutchinson on Sunday told the state's public schools to close for the next two weeks.
Oaklawn, a horse track in Hot Springs, announced Sunday it would close its casino through March 30 because of concerns about the virus. The track said it will continue to hold races but will not allow spectators on site.
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