Brian Chilson
GOOD JOB: The governor praised the masking and distancing of the legislature today.

The Arkansas coronavirus case count rose by 77 from yesterday to 1,023., but no new deaths were linked to the virus.

Health Director Nate Smith said the state completed about 800 more tests on the last day. Franklin County was added to those with confirmed cases. 76 people are hospitalized. 68 are in nursing homes. The ventilator count rose by four, to 30. 147 healthcare workers are infected.

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Smith gave a racial breakdown, a rising issue nationwide because of a heavy impact in minority communities in some hot spots. In Arkansas, four of 18 deaths have been African-American, and 23.5 percent of all confirmed cases. The state black population is around 16 percent.

Also:

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Unemployment

The state has received 110,000 unemployment claims. The governor said the number was likely to rise to 150,000 by the end of the week.

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Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said a new system will have to be built to handle claims for a new category of workers — independent business operators, gig economy people and others. He said it might be three weeks to build the system and proceeds claims, but the claims can be backdated. Neither calls or online applications are possible for these workers yet.

He also said the governor had released another $1 million for bridge loans of up to $25,000 to keep businesses opening as they away SBA loans.

Abortion

Hutchinson was asked again about issuing a ban on abortion. He said his order was almost identical to the order issued in Texas, The attorney general there has interpreted it as banning all but life-saving abortions and a federal appeals court has upheld that interpretation, though a district court in Texas and other states have ruled differently.

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The governor noted, however, that the state had also tried to discourage out-of-state travelers who might seek abortions in Arkansas. He said it was a “great concern” if anyone was coming from another state for a medical procedure, abortion, or, he was careful to add, any other procedure. That travel violates safety procedures and is a concern.

He said the Health Department was investigating whether that was occurring. But asked directly if he would say his order banned all but abortions to protect life or health of a woman, the governor said he wasn’t going to elaborate on what he’d already said. This follows similar states by him and Smith earlier this week. The two remaining abortion providers in the state, one only providing pharmaceutical abortions, remain open.

Hutchinson also didn’t respond to a question of whether the matter should be left to the legislature, where I suspect something is cooking.

Among Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s other remarks:

He praised the legislature’s use of face masks and other efforts to maintain distance.

The governor opened today’s session with a blessing for Jews celebrating Passover and having celebration seders individually, rather than in group settings.