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County, state plan to remind boaters about social distancing

by Steven Mross | May 30, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
Garland County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol Deputy Richard Huffman, left, and Cpl. Scott Hinojosa patrol Lake Hamilton Friday, May 29. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday singled out boaters on Lake Hamilton over Memorial Day for reportedly not following recommended COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in a couple of locations, and said local and state agencies would be reminding lake enthusiasts of its importance this weekend.

"We're heading into a very nice weekend, I hope, and while it's not Memorial Day, I expect people to be at the lake, I expect people to be outside, and I also ask everybody to carefully social distance, to set the right example for others, to protect others as well as yourselves," Hutchinson said at the beginning of his daily COVID-19 press briefing in Little Rock.

"In regard to Lake Hamilton, which did create at least one or two stories from Memorial weekend, it's just a couple of locations that they were not doing the best job in social distancing," Hutchinson said.

"We have talked with the Garland County Sheriff's Department, their office, as well as the Arkansas Game and Fish, and they've developed a plan between themselves to support each other in their patrol and activities to remind people of the importance of social distancing and particularly if there's any congregations of people that gather together that might endanger the public health. And so that is the plan as we go into the weekend and to future holidays."

Ensuring the safety of thousands of visitors on area lakes is the main priority of the Garland County sheriff's marine patrol and this summer that responsibility includes reminding people of the continued danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheriff Mike McCormick said Wednesday.

Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Health have issued recommendations that include social distancing, McCormick said, noting, "Lake Hamilton was particularly crowded over the Memorial Day weekend and the marine patrol did an outstanding job patrolling the lake. No major injuries or fatalities occurred."

Hutchinson had previously mentioned Lake Hamilton and other areas of the state where there were alleged incidents involving a lack of social distancing during his press briefing on Tuesday.

He said, "there were more than a few that put their own comfort and convenience above the health of others, and that is not helpful."

"These are uncertain time and we need people to do the right thing," McCormick said. "That includes social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. We want everyone to have a good time and enjoy our beautiful lakes, hiking trails and other great natural resources in Garland County.

"Their safety and well-being are the priority of the Garland County Sheriff's Office. The COVID-19 virus just adds another element and everyone must remember their actions could have a profound impact on others."

Marine patrol deputies focused on overall boater safety, so that citizens and vacationers may enjoy their holiday weekend, he said, noting deputies have not sought out gatherings, but have simply reminded citizens when they come into contact of the governor's message regarding safe practices.

McCormick said the sheriff's office will be "moving forward with PSA reminders of Gov. Hutchinson's recommendations on our office's social media accounts as well as our website."

He also noted Hutchinson has established a COVID-19 hotline, 800-803-7847, that citizens can call if they see someone not following the guidelines.

For information on COVID 19 directives, orders and health guidelines, visit https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-health-guidances.

Local on 05/30/2020

Print Headline: County, state plan to remind boaters about social distancing

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