We are all eager for a return to normalcy after strict measures were implemented in Arkansas and across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients infected by the disease. We have made significant progress, but what’s equally important now is safely resuming business and allowing Americans to return to work. At the same time, we must remain vigilant and continue to practice effective behaviors like social distancing as commerce restarts.
As a member of President Trump’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group, I’ve joined discussions about how we can reopen our country in a safe way that protects the health of citizens and supports our businesses. This requires striking the right balance in order to revive the economy while prioritizing public safety and health. Fortunately, Arkansas is leading the way in getting back to business responsibly.
The phased approach to reopening businesses in the Natural State is essential. Governor Asa Hutchinson, along with Arkansas Department of Health Director Dr. Nate Smith and the guidance of his team of public health experts, are leading the way for our state’s return to business by establishing protocols to keep us all safe as doors reopen to customers.
Over the last several weeks, hospitals and clinics resumed elective procedures, churches welcomed parishioners, gyms opened their doors and dine-in services at restaurants across the state returned in limited capacity. In the coming days public pools will reopen to swimmers for the summer.
This measured reopening allows us to minimize health risks while increasing customer capacity at locations we frequented before the pandemic forced us to change our habits. While businesses are required to follow industry-specific guidance, some are also taking additional steps including installing plexiglass shields to separate workspaces in order to reduce the potential for transmission of the coronavirus.
One way we’re working to decrease the spread of the virus and safely reopen American is by expanding COVID-19 testing. Funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act has provided more than $80 million to Arkansas to increase testing capacity. This support will help achieve the governor’s goal of conducting 60,000 coronavirus tests in the state during May.
Widespread testing is critical to reopening businesses and giving citizens the confidence they need to resume contact with loved ones and interact with the businesses and services they rely on in their daily lives. We all want to resume normal activities. It will be a slow process, but I am confident that by continuing to practice social distancing and following the guidelines of medical experts, we can safely and successfully recover.
John Boozman is a U.S. Senator from Arkansas. He is a Republican.