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Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his goal to start lifting COVID-related restrictions in Arkansas by May 4 during his Friday afternoon press conference.

As of Saturday, there have been 1,739 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and there are 93 active hospitalizations. Of the confirmed cases, 703 had recovered, and 38 had died as of Saturday.

Arkansas’s projected peak for COVID-related medical resource use is April 30, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

President Trump released a set of guidelines for reopening of state and local economies entitled “Opening America Up Again” on Thursday. Hutchinson said he hopes to be able to undertake the first phase of the three-phase approach by May 4.

Phase one involves continued social distancing while in public, avoiding nonessential travel and all vulnerable individuals continuing to shelter in place.

Large venues such as sit-down dining establishments, movie theaters, places of worship and sporting venues will be allowed to reopen as long as they maintain strict social distancing protocols. Schools and bars will remain closed.

During the implementation of phase one, employers would encourage telework whenever possible and allow those returning to work to do so in phases.

The plan allows state and local officials to tailor the criteria set forth to their local circumstances.

The proposed state criteria for reaching phase one include the decrease of influenza-like or COVID-like cases reported within a 14-day period, the decrease of documented cases or positive tests within a 14-day period, robust testing for at-risk workers and treating all patients without crisis care, according to the White House.

Hutchinson encouraged Arkansans to work together in social distancing to help make sure that the state meets the criteria for Phase One by May 4.

“We’re goal-oriented in Arkansas, and that our objective is to have May 4 as the date that we can start lifting some of the restrictions that are currently in place,” Hutchinson said.

Abbi Ross is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since March 2019.

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