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By order of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, hospitals and clinics were permitted to resume some elective surgeries Monday, after a 24-day shutdown for COVID-19 prevention.

The Arkansas Department of Health halted elective procedures, such as cosmetic surgeries and non-emergency joint replacements, April 3 to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within hospitals. 

Starting Monday, hospitals and clinics across the state resumed offering out-patient procedures. No procedures involving routine overnight stays are permitted yet. 

Before their operations, patients must be free of COVID-like symptoms and not have been in contact with anyone with the disease for at least 14 days, and they must have received a negative test for the virus within 48 hours.

ADH director Dr. Nate Smith said at the governor’s daily press conference April 22 that the state’s medical facilities have ample personal protective equipment, so state officials felt comfortable gradually reintroducing elective surgeries.

At the conference, Hutchinson laid out a timeline for making decisions regarding reopening Arkansas’s economy, in addition to announcing the resumption of elective procedures.

Hutchinson said he will announce whether restaurants can reopen to limited sit-down dining Wednesday. He will announce his decision in regard to gyms on April 30, barber shops and salons May 1, and large venues and places of worship May 4.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recommends relaxing social distancing in Arkansas no earlier than June 22, provided the reduction in restrictions coincides with widespread testing, contact tracing, isolation for ill individuals, and limited gathering sizes.

The IHME’s estimated dates for state reopenings are based on models for when each state will have reduced its numbers to no more than one infection per million people.

Smith said that because those conditions would mean there were only three active cases in the state, he thinks it is not necessary to wait to reach that benchmark before reopening.

"It doesn't make sense for a state like Arkansas," Smith said.

Arkansas has had 3,127 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 1,216 recoveries and 57 deaths.

Sarah Komar is a staff reporter for The Arkansas Traveler.

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