Business, for many, has come to a virtual standstill in De Queen, Sevier County and the state, with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson ordering all restaurants, bars and gyms closed last week, due to the insuppressible spread of the novel coronavirus and covid-19. On Monday the governor added barber and beauty shops, nail salons, massage therapists and tattoo shops to the list.
Many local restaurants are providing pick-up and delivery service while other businesses are closed for what may be as much as a three month stretch or longer.
The De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce has set up a Facebook page, “Sevierly Strong”, where local businesses are posting their hours and revised business practices while trying to continue to serve the local area and still make a living.
“At Sevierly Strong you will find local businesses and what they are changing about how they serve their customers during the COVID-19 precautions,” said the page’s mission statement. “These businesses have invested in our community and they are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our community, their customers, and staff!”
Restaurant posts include menus and hours from the likes of Tres Agaves, Ranch House Cafe, Simple Simons, Stilwells and many others. All are providing take out orders and some delivery.
De Queen Animal Hospital posted that they are open and offered instruction and precautions being taken for pet visits.
Sevier County Farmers Cooperative posted that all of their locations are open and that for a minimum one ton order, they will deliver.
The Treasure Chest & Company Flea Market in De Queen posted that they will be closed temporarily and First State Bank posted that they have closed their lobby except by appointment. The bank joins Arvest and Red River Credit Union, who have also closed their lobbies except by appointment.
In the local fitness world, three gyms in the city have closed their doors until the state determines it’s safe for them to re-open.
“It’s really scary the way it happened overnight,” said Better Body Fitness owner Mike Atkins about the closure of his business. “I’ve been doing this over 25 years and to wake up and not do the things you’ve done all that time is a difficult story.”
Atkins, like most area business owners, said that his expenses are the same whether the gym is open or not. Like everyone else, he’s not sure what the future holds but that over the years he’s seen a lot of good happen and met a lot of good people, something that became even more apparent to him by the things his members have told him since the shutdown.
“At the beginning, when the governor announced the shutdown, a few people cried because the business was going down and they had been here and lost between 50 and 100 pounds — and they would not have the opportunity to work out here like they had,” Atkins said. “What made me want to cry is people came by asking how this was going to affect me, with some saying, “don’t worry whether or not you’re open, I’m sending my dues.”
Atkins said that he was going to get some remodeling done during the time the business will be closed and he hopes to put in some new floors in the bathrooms.
“I don’t want to shut it down because this is my life,” he said. “It’s the last thing I would want to do. I love the people and the city of De Queen and if I can be of assistance to people, that is my goal.”
Rawls Furniture, which just went through a costly move from their former location on Collin Raye Drive to the former Fred’s Pharmacy, also on Collin Raye, is holding tight and wishing for the best as people in the community are being furloughed from jobs and life as it was known, is on a temporary hold.
“We’ll take it one day at a time like everyone else does and do what the government tells us to do, said store manager Tammy Soden.
Jessica Baslon, 39, of Horatio, a career restaurant employee, found herself out of a job when the diner she worked at was closed by the governor.
“I have bills to pay and my mom to help and I’m not sure how I’m going to do that,” she said, noting that finding another job would be difficult. “Where are you going to look? Nowhere is open and everyone has cut back on their workers or they closed down.”
As of Tuesday there have been 218 total active cases reported in Arkansas and two deaths. Just one case was reported in Sevier County last week and County Health Officer Dr. Jason Lofton said that he has not received any calls from the state since the one case was reported last week.
Governor Asa Hutchinson said that “we’re looking at the calm before the storm.”
“We’re still on the front end of this covid-19 emergency we have in the state of Arkansas,” he said, Tuesday.
Hutchinson said that the state will move the tax filing date back to July 15, the same due date federal tax returns have been moved to. Hutchinson said that the state expects a $160 million reduction in state revenue due to the shutdown of businesses throughout the state. Hutchinson has also authorized the release of $30 million to the Department of Finance and Administration for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care professionals and first responders as they test and treat patients who have contracted covid-19.
“The testers, first responders, nurses, and doctors are our first line of defense in the fight against this aggressive virus,” Hutchinson said. “They are risking their lives in the same way as firefighters who run into a burning building. We must provide them every piece of protection they need as they test and treat the Arkansans who have contracted COVID-19.”
Hutchnison also orderd schools to remain closed until April 17, though he stated that their re-opening wouldn’t be guaranteed but re-evaluated by that date.