Just last month, Arkansas’ Republican governor was defending his decision to forego a statewide stay-at-home order as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now that a high school swim party was linked to a cluster of new COVID-19 cases, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is warning residents of the dangers of failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines. “A high school swim party that I’m sure everybody thought was harmless,” he said at a media briefing Saturday. “They’re young, they’re swimming, they’re just having activity, and positive cases resulted from that.”
It’s quite the flip-flop from Hutchinson’s earlier stance that the state’s limited population density would protect it from needing to shelter in place. "We have masks and social distancing and the people of Arkansas have embraced that. That gives you success," Hutchinson said. He added that he is taking a “long-term approach” to the pandemic. “And you're not going to win simply by a lockdown," Hutchinson said.
Arkansas had 163 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday alone, bringing the statewide total to at least 5,775, the governor said. The state’s coronavirus death toll was 115 as of Saturday, a sliver of the United States' nearly 100,000 people who’ve died of the virus.
Still, masses of people swarmed beaches and outdoor areas in Maryland, New Jersey, and Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks for Memorial Day weekend celebrations, according to The Washington Post. More than 200 people partied in Daytona Beach, Florida, where gunfire blasted Saturday night along a road near the beach, according to NBC 6 South Florida.
White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx told "Fox News Sunday" she is "very concerned" people haven't been adhering to social distancing recommendations. A mask does prevent droplets from reaching others, and out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social-distance,” Birx said. “It’s critically important."
Hutchinson said his state was facing a “second peak” in coronavirus cases. "And during this Memorial [Day] weekend, we want to be out and we want to enjoy ourselves,” he said. “We want to remember this holiday and those that have served our country and given their lives in service of our country. But let's be safe and let's be disciplined at the same time.”
RELATED: Early Memorial Day party shows just how toothless Missouri social distancing rules are.