From the quiet hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
It seems that everywhere you go, people are anxious to get back to work. They’re tired of waiting for the coronavirus to get behind us, and they’re understandably getting nervous about providing for their families.
Business owners want to re-open their doors, and employees want to get back on the job.
It’s not surprising. Arkansans have never shied away from hard work.
However, when we begin easing restrictions on social inter-actions, we have to be careful and smart, or else we run the risk of going through another outbreak.
The governor has announced that he wants to ease off some restrictions on May 4. One of his priorities is to allow elective surgeries.
As crazy as it sounds, some hospitals are laying off staff because so many non-emergency medical procedures have been put on hold. That’s because hospitals and clinics have had to dedicate all their equipment and resources to fighting the coronavirus.
But if we intend to begin easing off on restrictions by May 4, we’re going to have to improve our capacity to test people.
Also, health care workers will need to be provided with plenty of protective equipment to spare.
We’ll need to train more staff how to trace the sources of the virus when someone falls ill. That’s something our health care professionals in Arkansas have done well, and it has kept our numbers down significantly.
When someone contracts COVID-19, health professionals try to contact all the people with whom they have come in contact. That has been very effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The steps we’ve taken are working. Social distancing is an effective strategy.
We know that large gatherings of people add fuel to the fire. For example, New Orleans and southern Louisiana was hit hard because of Mardi Gras.
The same thing happened in New York over the New Year’s weekend. In France and Germany, the spread of the virus can be traced to large church services during Lent.
The coronavirus thrives in places where people are packed together. And although many people who contract the virus will not show symptoms, they can easily spread it to elderly family members, for whom the symptoms are much more dangerous.
The danger is not just for senior citizens. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms.
As the public health professionals say, we want to “flatten the curve.” When we have reduced the risk of disease to manageable levels, the Arkansas business community will be ready to hit the ground running.
A task force of the state’s business and civic leaders has already begun preparing for the day when we ease up on some of our social restrictions.
Keep in mind that we won’t suddenly “flip a switch” and life will return back to normal. It will be a careful and methodical process.
When restaurants and gyms re-open, customers and clients must still maintain social distancing.
The same will be true of church services, sporting events and any entertainment activities allowed under Phase One of the re-opening.
We want to avoid taking one step forward and two steps back.
As long s we’re careful, we can get our economy back up to full speed without any relapses of the coronavirus.
I have been very encouraged by the way people are responding. They have a positive attitude and are making the necessary lifestyle changes with good spirit.
People are helping each other and that is strengthening our communities.
I’m talking to family members more than ever, and I’ve even talked to some neighbors for the first time in years. They just wanted to check up on me and make sure I was doing OK.
I know folks in Tennessee and Mississippi can say the same thing, but it sure makes me proud to live in Arkansas.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.