Arkansas apparently is forging ahead with plans to administer the bar exam July 28-29 despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state.
We reported in April the Arkansas Supreme Court order that the exams to practice law in the state would continue to be scheduled those days “contingent on the state of the coronavirus pandemic,” but postponed until September if necessary.
Things have gotten noticeably worse in Arkansas since then.
But … the state Board of Bar Examiners has decided that, however bad things might be now, the prediction is that they’ll get worse by fall, so the tests should be given in July.
The website Above the Law quotes from a statement from the Board:
The Board recognizes and is concerned that racial minorities are at a greater risk of COVID19 infection, hospitalization or death than white Arkansans. Health experts, however, seem to agree that the number of COVID19 cases will continue to escalate dramatically through October. In a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences report dated June 12, 2020 and entitled “Weekly COVID-19 Trends in Arkansas,” the prediction for the number of positive cases for the end of June 2020 was 15,000. As of Monday, June 29, 2020, Arkansas’ number of positive cases was even higher, reaching 20,257.
UAMS predicts that the positive cases will peak in late September or early October. The Mean-Case Estimate is 133,056 and the Worst-Case Estimate is 251,834. Based on the UAMS estimates, the Board is of the opinion that it would be far more dangerous for anyone to be in a large group in late September or early October than July.
Some aren’t happy with the decision to go ahead with the July test at Robinson Center, an exam that takes seven hours each day.
One correspondent wrote:
If held, this would not just present a risk to examinees, proctors, and their families. This would present a public health risk, as well, as examinees travel to and from the exam site. We’ve organized recent law graduates and other members of the legal community to oppose this and offer alternative solutions in our petition, available here.
Presumably the group indoor event would fall under state guidelines on capacity, distancing and masks.