Churches asked to avoid public gatherings this Easter

By submitted, 04/10/20 3:29 PM

LITTLE ROCK ― With Easter Sunday just days away and Passover starting tonight, the Health Policy Board of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) is urging faith leaders across the state to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Arkansas health officials and refrain from holding gatherings that could further the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We recognize that Easter is one of the most significant religious holidays of the year and that not gathering together in person to celebrate the day will be a difficult sacrifice for church members to make,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “However, with church events in Arkansas and elsewhere already linked to outbreaks of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new strain of coronavirus, the risk of further spread is too great.”

Dr. Thompson said churches and other faith groups are encouraged to find alternatives to in-person gatherings.

“We’ve already seen some creative solutions enabling continued worship, such as holding drive-up services, broadcasting services over the radio, and live-streaming services on Facebook,” he said.

Gov. Hutchinson has noted that most Arkansas churches are following recommendations for avoiding the spread of the virus. Dr. Thompson said the ACHI Health Policy Board commends those churches, but reports that some are still holding in-person gatherings prompted the board to issue a call for action.

“For the sake of slowing the spread of the virus and reducing loss of life, we ask that faith leaders cancel any plans for in-person gatherings this weekend and thereafter until health officials deem it safe for them to resume,” he said.

ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development. The Health Policy Board is its governing body.

The ACHI Health Policy Board members are:

  • Jerry Adams, President & CEO, Arkansas Research Alliance
  • Lawrence “Larry” Braden, MD, Ouachita Valley Family Clinic
  • Sandra J. Brown, MPH, MSN, RN, CEO, Jefferson Comprehensive Care System, Inc.
  • Rick Elumbaugh, Mayor, City of Batesville
  • Joe Fox, MBA, President, Community Bakery
  • Stephanie Gardner, PharmD, EdD, Sr. Vice Chancellor for AA and Provost UAMS Academic Affairs
  • Ray Hanley President & CEO, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care
  • Susan Hanrahan, PhD, Dean, College of Nursing & Health Professions, Arkansas State University
  • Don Hollingsworth, JD, Retired Executive Director, Arkansas Bar Association
  • Andrew Kumpuris, MD, Cardiologist, CHI St. Vincent Heart Clinic Arkansas
  • Jayme Mayo, PA-C, Wellness Director, Nabohlz
  • Ray Montgomery (Chair), President & CEO, Unity Health White County Medical Center
  • Eddie Ochoa, MD, Associate Professor, Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • James “Skip” Rutherford, Dean, UA, Clinton School of Public Service
  • Herb Sanderson, State Director, AARP Arkansas
  • Robert “Bob” Shoptaw, Retired CEO, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • G. Richard Smith, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine & UAMS Public Health
  • F.S. “Sandy” Stroope, Executive Director, Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission
  • Joe Thompson, MD, MPH (Ex-Officio), President & CEO, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
  • Annabelle Imber Tuck, JD (Vice Chair), Public Service Fellow & Jurist-in-Residence, William H. Bowen School of Law, Retired Justice, Arkansas Supreme Court
  • Susan Ward-Jones, MD, CEO, East Arkansas Family Health Center, Inc
  • Mark Williams, PhD (Ex-Officio), Dean, UAMS College of Public Health
  • Namvar Zohoori, MD, MPH, PhD, Deputy State Health Officer, Chief Science Officer, Arkansas Department of Health