Arkansas – Coronavirus State Actions

Governors are working closely with federal and local officials as well as private sector partners to address the threat of the novel coronavirus. This page lists select actions taken to date. It is not intended to be exhaustive but is meant to highlight key actions and resources that may inform other states and territories as they prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus. All state actions can be viewed here, or visit Coronavirus: What You Need To Know for additional information and resources.


  • Arkansas Department of Health Coronavirus Resource Page
  • March 11, 2020 – Governor Hutchinson signed an executive order to declare a public health emergency to facilitate coordination and provide increased support to state agencies that are involved in response to the virus. 
  • March 11, 2020 – The Governor announced that members of his cabinet must approve state employees’ out-of-state business travel for the next 60 days.
  • March 12, 2020 – The Secretary of State ordered the closure of the Arkansas State Capitol to the public, effective March 13. Only authorized personnel will be permitted to enter the building for work purposes.
  • March 12, 2020 – The Governor amended executive order 20-03 to authorize funds from the Governor’s Disaster Fund, Emergency Response Fund in the amount of $750,000 to defray costs for the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management.
  • March 13, 2020 – The Governor issued executive order 20-05, permitting health care professionals to consult with patients remotely, rather than in person.
  • March 15, 2020 – The Governor closed all public schools starting March 17 for on-site instruction until the end of Spring Break.
  • March 15, 2020 – The Governor announced the activation of the Arkansas National Guard to assist in COVID-19 response.
  • March 17, 2020 – The Governor directed the Arkansas Department of Commerce to expedite unemployment benefits to assist Arkansans whose employment status may be impacted by COVID-19, including waiving the waiting period and work-search requirements for 30 days, and allowing the unemployed to apply for benefits online or by telephone.
  • March 17, 2020 – The Governor ordered the state’s three casinos to close for two weeks. He also announced that he was easing requirements for applying for unemployment benefits to help people who lose their jobs as businesses close or scale back operations.
  • March 17, 2020 – The Governor issued executive order 20-06, creating greater flexibility for state agencies to waive or suspend statutes and rules in response to the emergency.
  • March 17, 2020  – The  Arkansas Economic Development Commission established a $7 million loan program to provide assistance to businesses and the Quick Action Loan Program to prioritize small to medium-sized businesses.  
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor made a formal request for a disaster declaration for small businesses, which will open up loans of up to $2 million in working capital from the Community Development Block Grant and the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor suspended the renewal process for childcare vouchers for 30 days and will expedite the process once it resumes.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor announced childcare providers will be allowed to temporarily increase capacity.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor announced that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will suspend the work requirement through the end of April.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor announced that the state would allocate $12 million in block grant money and up to $4 million from the quick-action fund to provide bridge loans to help mid-size companies and nonprofits remain open.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Arkansas Community Foundation established a statewide COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide rapid-response grants to nonprofit organizations working on the front lines.  
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor announced schools will remain closed for an additional three weeks through April 17 banned sit-down service at all restaurants and bars. Due to dining restrictions, the state is temporarily allowing restaurants to sell beer and wine for takeout or delivery with the purchase of food.
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor announced the state will move to telecommuting, with on-site work limited to employees needed for the proper function of government. He also ordered hospitals, clinics, and mental health facilities to screen staff and visitors for temperature and potential symptoms of the virus.
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor suspended the renewal process for child-care vouchers for 30 days and will expedite the process once it resumes.
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor announced the Department of Human Services (DHS)temporarily relaxed limits on child-care providers to increase capacity by up to five children.
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor announced that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will suspend the work requirement through the end of April.
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor authorized the release of $30 million to the Department of Finance and Administration for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care professionals and first responders.
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order expanding the provisions under the Telemedicine Act. The order includes the following provisions: 
    • Suspends provisions that require an in-person encounter or a face-to-face examination to allow time audio and visual means to establish a professional relationship;
    • Allows reimbursement to health care providers who take advantage of this provision; and
    • Suspends the Rules and Regulations of the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling to allow licensed counselors to treat their clients by telephone.
  • March 23, 2020 – The Governor announced the extension of the tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020.
  • March 24, 2020 – The Governor issued a directive closing in-person operations of all barbers, body art establishments and schools, cosmetology establishments, massage therapy clinics/spas, and medical spas.
  • March 24, 2020 – The Governor issued executive order 20-05 to leverage telehealth allowing doctors to intake new patient over the phone.
  • March 25, 2020 – The Governor issued the official call to legislators for an extraordinary session of the 92nd General Assembly to do the following:
    • Create the COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund;
    • Confirm gubernatorial appointees; and
    • Provide for the payment of expenses and per diem of the House of Representatives and the Senate for this extraordinary session.
  • March 25, 2020 – The Governor announced the Arkansas State Medical Board has granted emergency temporary licenses to medical residents who have completed at least one year of internship and waived all licensing fees.
    • The medical board has also accelerated its overall licensing process.
  • March 26, 2020 – The Governor announced the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is submitting a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide $116 million in additional Medicaid funding to protect Arkansas health care workers, their patients, and to support health care providers.
  • March 27, 2020 – The Governor announced a new plan with an emphasis on Arkansas’s rural providers including the following:
    • Waiving of Medicaid regulations, with an estimated cost of $116 million;
    • Providing financial assistance to hospitals with fewer than 65 beds and clinics without the capital to adapt their facilities to new care delivery processes;
    • Providing safe face-to-face service by extending clinic hours or staggering schedules to separate patients;
    • Providing assistance to expand and upgrade telemedicine so doctors can treat patients from their homes, with telemedicine training funded by the state; and
    • Providing funding to companies that provide non-emergency transportation.
  • March 28, 2020 – The Governor signed legislation establishing the COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund with $173 million to support the response and to avoid cutting some agencies’ budgets.
  • March 30, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order that created the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Steering Committee (Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee) to identify the needs of the state and make recommendations to the Governor for the best use of the federal CARES Act funding.
  • March 30, 2020 – The Governor announced $45 million funding will be allocated to the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators for health care professionals and first responders as they test and treat patients.
  • April 1, 2020 – The Governor implemented “day use” operations only, effective 8 a.m. on Friday, April 3 for all state parks.
  • April 1, 2020 – The Governor announced a partnership with Walmart and Quest Labs to start a pilot, drive-thru testing site in Benton County for first responders and health care workers.
  • April 2, 2020- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Arkansas’ request for a Section 1135 Medicaid waiver. The approved waiver enables Arkansas to provide flexibilities in Medicaid provider screening and enrollment, forgo certain pre-admission screening and annual resident review assessments, extend fair hearing timelines, and waive public comment and tribal consultation requirements for certain changes to the Medicaid state plan.
  • April 4, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order mandating new safety measures for commercial lodgings, short-term rentals, and other institutions for authorized guests such as first responders.
  • April 4, 2020 – The Governor announced that President Trump in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Arkansas’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for the state.
  • April 6, 2020 – The Governor extended the mandatory closure of all Arkansas public schools through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • April 13, 2020 – The Governor announced the formation of the Governor’s Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response. The committee will identify the criteria to guide public health strategy after Arkansas reaches its peak cases.
  • April 14, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order allowing health workers and first responders, such as firefighters, to file worker’s compensation claims if they are infected while on the job.
  • April 14, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order granting healthcare workers immunity from liability in coronavirus cases.
  • April 15, 2020 – The Governor announced that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Arkansas’s request to use Medicaid funds to temporarily increase the weekly income of long-term services and supports (LTSS) direct care workers.
  • April 14, 2020 – The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services’ Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program allowed employers to divide available work or hours of work among a specific group(s) of employees in lieu of a layoff, and it allows the employees to receive a portion of their unemployment benefits.
  • April 15, 2020 – The Governor announced the formation of the Governor’s Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response.
  • April 17, 2020 – The Governor announced the temporary waiver of the requirement to search for a new job while receiving unemployment.
  • April 18, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order creating the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force to develop an industry-specific strategy and provide the Governor with recommendations for Arkansas’ economic recovery.
    • $10 million was also allocated in community development block grants to be distributed to 27 hospitals and $500,000 to support telehealth efforts in rural areas.
  • April 21, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order creating the Governor’s COVID-19 Testing Working Group to make recommendations to expand the capacity and performance of COVID-19 testing in the state.
  • April 22, 2020 – The Governor announced medical service providers can resume certain nonessential out-patient procedures on April 27. The Arkansas Department of Health has issued certain requirements for hospitals and out-patient clinics to follow in order to re-engage elective procedures.
    • The Governor also announced that he has established target dates to decide whether the state will lift restrictions on certain other services and businesses.
  • April 23, 2020 – The Governor launched a two-day Arkansas Surge Campaign to increase COVID-19 testing from 1,000 to 1,500 per day over the next two days.
  • April 27, 2020 – The Governor announced Walmart & Quest Diagnostic opened drive-thru COVID testing site in Central Arkansas for symptomatic Arkansans, and for health care workers & first responders.
  • April 28, 2020 – The Governor announced State Parks will begin a limited reopening of some facilities for residents starting Friday, May 1.
  • April 29, 2020 – The Governor announced restaurants may resume limited dine-in service on May 11 under Phase 1 guidelines that require daily health screening of staff, use of face masks and gloves, and strict social distancing.
  • April 30, 2020 – The Governor announced gyms and fitness centers may resume operations on May 4, 2020, under certain guidelines established to protect the health and safety of employees and patrons.
  • May 1, 2020 – The Governor announced barber shops, salons, clinics, and other services may resume operations under certain guidelines established to protect the health and safety of employees and patrons.
  • May 1, 2020 – The Governor announced the opening of the Arkansas Ready for Business initiative to aid the owners of small businesses recovering from the financial losses.
  • May 4, 2020 – The Governor announced indoor venues such as theaters, arenas, stadiums, and auction houses that are designed for audiences of fewer than 50 may re-open on May 18 on a limited basis with strict social distance among performers, contestants, and members of the audience.
  • May 5, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order extending Arkansas’s COVID-19 public health and disaster emergency for an additional 45 days.
    • The order also updated a directive for all travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, and all international locations must follow quarantine directives outlined by the Arkansas Department of Health.
  • May 5, 2020 – The Governor announced the legislature has approved $55 million in funding for the Arkansas Ready for Business Grant Program — a resource to help businesses get back on their feet and provide them assistance to ensure the highest health and safety standards for employees and customers.
  • May 7, 2020 – The Governor announced that the state’s three gaming casinos will open at 1:30 PM on May 18. The casinos will open at 1/3 capacity and will enforce strict social distancing.
  • May 7, 2020- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Arkansas’ second request for a Medicaid 1135 waiver. The waiver allows Arkansas to lift prior authorization requirements and waive consent requirements for Homes and Community-Based Services.
  • May 8, 2020 – The Governor announced recreational pools may resume limited operations on May 22, 2020 under certain guidelines. On May 11, the state will begin the next phase of elective surgeries, which will allow procedures that require hospital stays of up to 48 hours.
  • May 15, 2020 – The Governor announced a partnership with Walmart to provide approximately 130 mobile testing units across the country. Currently, they have three operating in Bentonville, Little Rock, and Fort Smith; and just this week announced additional sites in Jonesboro, Hot Springs, Texarkana, and West Memphis.
  • May 15, 2020 – The Governor announced a partnership with the Community Health Centers across Arkansas to provide over 2,000 test collections per week to assist the state in reaching its goal of 60,000 tests in May.
  • May 19, 2020 – The Governor announced a new goal of testing every nursing home resident and staff member beginning June 1.
  • May 20, 2020 – The Governor announced that bars which are associated with and are located within restaurant facilities are approved to open today. Free standing bars which are not associated with restaurants should be ready to open next Tuesday, May 26th.
  • May 29, 2020 – The Governor announced the creation of the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Board to review and evaluate new technologies as the state’s public health agencies develop strategies for testing and contact tracing.
  • June 8, 2020 – The Governor announced the state will move to Phase 2 of reopening, easing restrictions on restaurants other businesses.
  • June 15, 2020 – The Governor issued three executive orders providing workers compensation coverage, medical immunity from civil liability, and business immunity from civil liability as a result of exposure to COVID-19.
  • June 19, 2020 – The Governor announced that nursing homes, and assisted-living and residential-care facilities will be able to resume limited family visits and other activities on July 1 if compliant with the public health guidelines of the Arkansas Department of Health.
  • July 2, 2020 – The Governor announced registered voters who fear potential exposure may apply for an absentee ballot for November’s General Election.
  • July 3, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order permitting cities to implement an ordinance requiring mandatory face coverings.