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COVID-19 update: Gyms and fitness centers to open May 4 with some restrictions

Gov. Asa Hutchinson released new guidelines for gyms and fitness centers to reopen on May 4 at today’s statewide COVID-19 update.

A mix of screening, social distancing (including activities that require no physical contact), sanitizing, face masks, and other methods will be utilized (see the full list of guidelines below). Pools, spas, showers, and saunas will still be closed. State health officials will revaluate that rule in later weeks.

Team sports, such as basketball, will also not be allowed. As Hutchinson — a big basketball aficionado — noted, the virus can be on a ball that’s being passed around player to player. Some level of practice will be allowed, but players with need to practice with their own ball.


More information on the guidelines can be found at


Reporters questioned Hutchinson on the state’s new Arkansas Ready for Business grant program after an online application was briefly posted Wednesday before the state legislative council approved the amount for the fund.

The link was taken down within an hour, but the governor noted that within that hour, 2,300 applicants requesting a total of $36 million were submitted. At Wednesday’s briefing, Hutchinson announced the grant amount would be $15 million. Hutchinson said he takes responsibility for the premature launch of the program’s website. He expects the site to be back up next week after the legislative council determines the amount of money going into the program.

The governor noted that 92 percent of businesses that applied during the short time the site was live were those with 50 or fewer employees, indicating the grant funds are going toward operations they’re targeting.

The program will assist Arkansas companies and businesses to offset expenses associated with ensuring the health and safety of employees and patrons.

Other notes from the Thursday briefing:

  • There have been two additional deaths related to the coronavirus since Wednesday, increasing the total death toll to 61. Dr. Smith noted that 22 nursing home patients are part of the total death toll.
  • Just over 1,300 patients have recovered.
  • There have been no new cases reported from the Cunnims Prison Barracks Unit. Thirteen inmates at Cummins are hospitalized with three on a ventilator. And there are a total of 14 new cases at the federal correctional facility in Forrest City, bringing the total number of positive cases there to 101.
  • The number of positive cases increased to a total of 63 individuals since Wednesday for a total of 3,255 cases. It was the lowest increase of positive cases in a 24-hour period in a while, officials noted.
  • Ninety-five patients are hospitalized. That’s an increase of two patients since Wednesday.
  • Five more patients are on ventilators bringing the total number of patients on ventilators to 23.
  • And officials reported that Wednesday saw the largest amount of tests processed in Arkansas in a single day. The governor singled out commercial labs, such as AEL Laboratories, with helping process more of the tests.

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