By Ray King

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Monday signed three executive orders to protect health care workers and small businesses from the threat of legal action as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his daily COVID -19 update, Hutchinson also signed an executive order which will allow workers who catch COVID-19 while at their place of employment to file for workers compensation.

Joined by members of the Arkansas House and Senate, Hutchinson said he had received letters from leaders of both the house and senate calling for the executive orders in lieu of calling a special legislative session during the pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said businesses who have reopened and are trying to get back on their feet after being closed for a lengthy period of time needed the legislation which offers immunity from legal action as long as the business follows C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines.

“This will not provide immunity for bad actors,” Hendren said.

In his daily update, the Governor said there were 12,501 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and an additional 416 cases were reported Monday, bringing the state’s total to 12,917.  Of those, 4,383 are considered active cases and another 8,352 people have recovered.

There are currently 206 people hospitalized around the state and there have been 182 deaths.

Washington County again had the largest number of cases in the state with 126 of them reported and Acting State Health Officer Dr. Jose Romero said 50 percent of those testing positive for the disease had Spanish surnames. There were 53 reported cases in Benton County, 18 of them from seven households. Pope County reported 25 cases and Sevier County 20 with 40 percent of those cases individuals with Spanish surnames.

Hutchinson said based on the current trend, he expects reported cases no continue to increase over the next week or so.

“This is an important time in terms of the pandemic,” the Governor said. “There’s a temptation to let your guard down. “Protect yourselves and others by social distancing and wearing a mask.”