VIRUS OUTBREAK-ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE
Arkansas lawmakers meet at arena over coronavirus concerns
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A basketball arena has been converted into a temporary Arkansas House chamber due to coronavirus concerns as lawmakers meet to address a budget shortfall because of the outbreak. The House and Senate quickly advanced plan Thursday to allow Gov. Asa Hutchinson to use the state's surplus to prevent some budget cuts because of the $353 million shortfall. Legislative leaders say they hope to wrap up the session early Saturday morning. The Senate is meeting at the state Capitol, but with restrictions on how many members can be on the floor.
Arkansas bans gatherings of more than 10 to curb virus
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Arkansas is banning indoor and enclosed outdoor social gatherings of more than 10 people, with few exceptions, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said Thursday that the directive doesn't apply to businesses, manufacturers, construction companies, places of worship, government or the judiciary. But it does ban sporting events, concerts, conferences, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, and festivals. Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the order is needed to avoid imposing a sweeping shelter-in-place order as in other states. The virus has infected at least 335 people in Arkansas and is blamed for three deaths.
1 dead after Pope County shooting, police say
LONDON, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say a Pope County man has died after he was shot by a sheriff's deputy. Arkansas State Police say the shooting happened Wednesday when a Pope County deputy was responding to a report of a suicidal person. State police say the deputy shot 53-year-old Glenn White of London after White reportedly approached the deputy while holding a knife. White was pronounced dead at the scene.
What's in store: Groceries installing barriers amid outbreak
QUINCY, Mass. (AP) — Grocery stores across the U.S. are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus. The see-through barriers are going up this week at supermarket chains including Stop & Shop, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Walmart and Publix. Grocers say they're trying to protect employees and consumers, since bagging and paying for food takes place well within the minimum 6-foot distance public health experts are urging people to maintain. Some grocery stores in France also installed similar barriers last week when that country went into lockdown.
Judge kicks back rejected casino application to racing panel
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge has ruled that the Arkansas Racing Commission erroneously rejected a casino application, concluding that the bases on which it was initially denied are unconstitutional. The Racing Commission initially rejected Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi’s casino application because it lacked two endorsements from local officials who were in office at the time it was submitted. On Tuesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ordered that the commission must apply the state’s constitutional law and consider Gulfside's application “on its merits.” The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday that the state constitution doesn't explicitly say when endorsements should be made or submitted.
Bill Braum, ice cream and burger chain founder, dead at 92