By Ray King

With the exception of bars, all retail establishments will be able to open Monday, according to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, the Governor said a decision on when bars can open will be announced Monday.

“Arkansas was never under a lock-down order and there was no stay at home order,” Hutchinson said. “We recognize that people need to work and make a living and we want to continue on to the next phase. There are some restrictions, but businesses will be open.”

Asked about that, the Governor said stories on the national media have focused on “opening up” and while there was no direct order to close businesses, some did so because of a lack of customer demand.

There were 97 new cases of COVID-19 reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 4,463. Of those, 79 were in communities and the remaining 18 in correctional facilities. Nine-hundred 75 of the cases are active.

Hutchinson and later State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said 11 of the new cases were reported in Jefferson County and 10 in Crittenden County. An additional 9 cases were reported in Pope Cunty and Smith said those all related to a single location at a rehabilitation facility.

There are currently 79 people hospitalized and there have been no new deaths reported. So far, 98 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Asked if there might come a point when he has to reinstitute some of the directives he has started to relax, particularly if COVID-19 cases increase significantly, the Governor said he didn’t see the potential of going back.

“We’re going to stay in Phase 1 till we have confidence that we’re not going to have a resurgence, then go to Phase 2,” he said. “We’re not going to retreat from where we are.”

The Governor also announced that Friday was the first day that the state’s lodges, parks and cabins were opened for overnight stays and 71 percent of the reservations for those facilities came from in-state residents while the remaining 29 percent were from out-of-state.

Secretary of Parks, Tourism and Heritage Stacy Hurst said marinas at the state’s parks also opened Friday and that the East and West Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park will open Tuesday, May 19.

The Governor also announced that there will not be press briefings on Saturday and Sunday and will return Monday when he will be in Forrest City.