LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If President Donald Trump decides to hold a campaign rally in Arkansas, the state will insist that all participants are socially distanced and wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday.
Hutchison's comments on NBC's “Meet the Press” follow Trump rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and at an Arizona megachurch, as well as an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore, where most of the thousands of participants flouted public safety guidelines on maintaining a safe distance and wearing masks.
“You can’t stop every activity, but you have to be in a controlled environment in which you do protect yourself and others and take it seriously,” the governor said, adding that a lot of public celebrations for the July Fourth holiday were cancelled in his state “to minimize that exposure.”
“Obviously, I would like to have seen more face coverings there in order to set an example,” he said of Friday's event in South Dakota.
And if the president wanted to host a rally in Arkansas?
“There would have to be social distancing and wearing of masks if you can’t social distance,” Hutchinson said. “You have to follow our guidelines and that’s what we would insist upon.”
Arkansas on Sunday reported 605 confirmed new cases of the coronavirus but no additional deaths. The Arkansas Department of Health said the state’s total number of reported cases has reached 23,814. The state has reported 286 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The true number of cases is likely much higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected and not feel sick.
While the governor has not introduced a statewide mandate for residents to wear mask in public, he said Friday that cities could enact such measures to reduce the risk of exposure.
“We are leading by example,” Hutchinson told “Meet the Press.” “I wear a mask when I’m out in public. This is important for us because when you want to grow the economy, whenever you want to bring people off the unemployment rolls, the way you do it is to stop the spread of the virus through covering yourself, protecting others and protecting yourself.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.