Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed three executive orders into law Monday which ensure businesses and public health workers have immunity from potential lawsuits related to the coronavirus pandemic and guarantees workers who get the virus on the job receive workman’s compensation. The governor signed the orders before his regular COVID-19 response news briefing.
The governor noted the order protecting businesses from litigation “does not provide blanket immunity,” and business owners must comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in order to be protected.
The order to protect the medical community authorizes health care workers and providers to use crisis standards of care to respond to treat COVID-19 patients and that “health care providers as emergency workers are from civil liability,” with the caveat that it “does not extend to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct.”
Prior to the signing of the executive order Monday, workman’s compensation did not extend to employees who got the virus on the job.
Sen. Jim Hendren commended the governor for signing the order to change that.
“Anybody who gets COVID-19 at work deserves to have those health care costs and associated time off paid for and the workman’s comp executive order will make sure that is the case,” Hendren said.
All three executive orders were effective immediately and will expire after the public health emergency is terminated.
The governor announced Arkansas had 416 new cases of COVID-19 since Sunday for a cumulative total of 12,917. 4,383 cases remain active.
Five additional hospitalizations were recorded Sunday for a total of 206. No additional patients have been put on ventilators, with the total remaining at 45.
Three additional deaths were recorded over the last day for a total of 182.
The governor also announced 7,063 COVID-19 tests were completed over the past 24 hours, a record for the state. With more than 68,000 tests completed since the beginning of June, Arkansas remains on-track to reach their June goal of 120,000 tests, the governor said.
Washington and Benton counties continue to lead the way in new COVID-19 cases, while Pope and Sevier counties had the third and fourth-most cases over the past 24 hours.
There have been no links between new cases and restaurants, worship centers, daycares or other businesses, Hutchinson said.
As he has in previous press conferences, the governor cautioned the public and said he expected cases to continue to go up over the next week.
“I don’t believe that we’ve reached the second peak,” the governor said. “We need to continue to take this seriously and do everything we can to live, but at the same time, control the spread of this virus.”
The governor also announced that Walmart donated 7,000 hospital masks to healthcare facilities in Northwest Arkansas at his request.