Berry asks governor to declare emergency
By Samantha Jones
Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to take more severe steps to reduce and slow the spread of COVID-19 in a letter to the community on Monday, March 23.
In the letter, Berry writes that Hutchinson asked all Arkansans to take necessary steps to reduce and slow the spread of COVID-19 at a teleconference on March 21. Hutchinson said that would keep the state from taking more severe steps, Berry writes.
“Many of you are of the same mindset I am — it’s time, Governor, to take more severe steps!” Berry writes.
Berry writes that he promised he would do everything in his power to keep the community safe and take all precautions to help slow, reduce and contain the spread of the virus. That is still his solemn promise, Berry writes, and always will be. Berry writes that he wants the community to understand what is within his power today and what is not.
“Only the Governor has the authority to declare a full State of Emergency,” Berry writes.
To date, Berry writes, Hutchinson has not decided to declare a full state of emergency. Hutchinson has declared four state medical emergency orders, Berry writes, and the cities that have declared states of emergency (Little Rock, Fayetteville and Hot Springs) all have positive cases and known cases caused by community spread. The powers granted through those declarations allow the cities to do things like set curfews, close city offices, cancel city events and set limits on gatherings.
“To date, none have ordered closing businesses,” Berry writes. “To date, Governor Hutchinson has said he has no intention to order businesses to close.”
Berry writes that there are currently no positive cases in Carroll County but things are changing daily. He is constantly monitoring the situation, Berry writes, and is in contact with state officials to determine the appropriate time for Eureka Springs and/or Carroll County to declare an emergency providing additional local powers and to get clarification on what resources, funds and other remedies open up with the declaration.
“This is frustrating to me and many of my other fellow Mayors in similar situations,” Berry writes, “but we must comply with the law.”
He is in daily contact with the local Community Emergency and Preparedness Task Force enacted earlier this month, Berry writes. He writes that the group is following the guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health, UAMS Medical and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“I also told you I would do everything in my power to keep your business running as close to normal as possible,” Berry writes. “Reality Check: there is no ‘normal’ right now.”
While he can’t order people to stay home or close their businesses, Berry made strong recommendations for how the community should move forward.
• Unless you are conducting essential business, temporarily close to the public. If possible, conduct business online and/or by phone.
• Be sure to say that you are “temporarily closed due to COVID19 concerns.” If you just state that you are closed, it may impact your insurance benefits, Berry writes.
• Landlords — please show extra compassion at this time and do your part to help relieve the stress and financial strain businesses are under now.
• Contact your insurance agent to find out if you have Business Interruption and Contingent Business Interruption and ask about the coverage.
• Policies and coverage can vary — find out what your specific coverage is and when you can file a claim.
• Find out if your insurance can go into effect under the current Medical State of Emergency orders by Gov. Hutchinson.
Berry writes that there have been reports of scams, price gouging and lots of misinformation. The city will be adding links to its website to report these events and give citizens the most accurate sources for information, he writes. If you know of any local scams or price gouging, call Berry’s office at 479-253-9703.
The city is exploring more ways to help with the burdens on residents and businesses, Berry writes, with the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development identifying resources, funding and other relief options for the businesses and monitoring state and federal changes in tax and unemployment laws.
“I’m proud of the way our community has taken the warnings seriously to stay at home, keep safe distance and adhere to the City, State, CDC and Department of Health recommendations,” Berry writes. “We are a resilient and extremely caring community. We will need each more and more in the coming months.”