SIGN WARS: A hand-lettered response in Robinwood signals a hope for change that could come thanks to a woeful response to the pandemic.

The Trump administration failed long ago at coronavirus response but its surrender became official today. Things aren’t much better in Arkansas

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First, from the White House chief of staff:

Then you have Mike Pence, theoretically a member of the coronavirus task force. Five of his aides have tested positive for COVID-19, including his chief of staff. Will he quarantine?

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Arkansas isn’t much better.

Andrew Moreau wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning about bonus baby Commerce Secretary Mike Preston’s new national advertising campaign to attract people to Arkansas.

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The campaign stresses our pandemic response. I kid you not.  It also targets cities that have had protests, figuring businesses are ready for a change. I guess Preston forgot the Antifa riots in Little Rock last summer, mounted from staging areas in Bryant hotels. (Just kidding about Antifa, that was a fiction encouraged by Trump’s Justice Department and propagated by local law enforcement ninnies.) But the big sell is Governor Hutchinson’s “Ready for Business” strategy. Said Preston in the D-G interview:

“We didn’t want to wait any longer to capitalize on the situation,” Preston said, noting that since March most efforts have been focused on helping existing businesses survive the pandemic.

 

“We want to be aggressive again and proactive” in building leads, Preston said.

 

The state’s message is pretty straightforward: Executives frustrated with heavy-handed mandates that state and local governments are placing on their business should consider making the move to Arkansas. And, the campaign boasts, the state won’t shut down your operations in the pandemic.

 

No kidding. Not even places like chicken processors with epidemic breakouts. Businesses may operate however they want. Hutchinson has taken steps to be sure you won’t be sued if someone, employee or customer, gets sick.

Says an ad webpage:

“Arkansas has taken a data-driven, business-friendly approach to navigating the challenges of Covid-19,” the landing page emphasizes. “We didn’t need to reopen because we never closed. We welcome and support businesses of all sizes looking to expand.”

Indeed he and billionaire heir Steuart Walton have made it clear from the first that business comes ahead of people on the pandemic priority list. See how quickly business got shoveled money (after a heads-up to business insiders). See how many thousands of unemployed working poor are still desperately waiting for unemployment assistance from Preston’s department.

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But this data they are talking about? All the data I know about is bad.

Best hope these business prospects can’t read. In the same paper Preston was touting how Arkansas’s pandemic response, you could read in an account of another four-digit COVID case daily increase. It said the Health Department was seeing people being infected in restaurants, people being infected in churches, people being infected from school sports and extracurricular activities. The governor has rejected advice from the White House and his own Health Department to issue stricter orders, particularly in “red zones.”

“Make Your Move” is Preston’s latest catchphrase.

Move to a state with the 8th highest case rate in the country? With dozens of school districts with infection rates double or triple the 5 percent danger level cited by most health authorities (not Hutchinson)? Where the death rate in the last few weeks has been near the top in the U.S.? Where law officers ignore the governor’s mask “mandate”? Where Republican legislators sue to prevent the few pitiful guidelines that have been instituted? Where proud vigilantes patrol public spaces to intimidate mask-wearers and Biden voters?

Good luck with that.

Asa promises some more PR moves are coming next week. Spin. Grin.

ON FACE THE NATION: Asa Hutchinson.

UPDATE: Not so good for luring business — the recent spike in hospitalizations in Arkansas and huge new-case numbers were the subject of first questions asked Governor Hutchinson in an appearance this morning on CBS.

Same old Asa shuffle familiar to viewers of his briefings followed. He is concerned. People must observe the guidelines. We must keep the economy moving. Yadda yadda.

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He did concede Trump sent a “confusing message” but holding mass rallies at which he and most in attendance don’t wear masks. He danced around the question of vaccine distribution. He said he wouldn’t participate in a “lock her up” chant about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as has been done at Trump rallies.