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Sanders executive order repeals COVID-19 committees, advisory groups from 2020

By: - January 13, 2023 6:02 pm
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs an executive order on Jan. 13, 2023, disbanding seven committees created by her predecessor, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in 2020 in response the COVID-19 pandemic. (Governor's Press Office)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs an executive order on Jan. 13, 2023, disbanding seven committees created by her predecessor, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in 2020 in response the COVID-19 pandemic. (Governor’s Press Office)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders eliminated five state entities on Friday that her predecessor Gov. Asa Hutchinson created via executive order to address the COVID-19 pandemic almost three years ago.

Sanders’ own executive order repealed five orders she called “obsolete” in a statement. The order also asks the Arkansas Department of Health to focus on other public health issues.

“Unfortunately, government has prioritized COVID-19 disproportionally and allowed other health concerns like addiction, cancer screenings, diabetes, and mental health to worsen,” Sanders said in the statement.

The executive order is Sanders’ ninth since she took office Tuesday.

The five entities Hutchinson created in 2020 that Sanders repealed are:

  • The Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Steering Committee, created in March 2020 to disburse the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal CARES Act in 2020 with a deadline of Dec. 31, 2021.
  • The Governor’s Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response, enacted in April 2020 to work on the state’s strategy to avoid a resurgence of the virus after cases hit their peak and began trending downward.
  • The Governor’s COVID-19 Testing Advisory Group, enacted in April 2020 to ensure the state had enough equipment and capacity to test people for the coronavirus.
  • The Governor’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Board, enacted in May 2020 to assist state government with technical questions and initiatives related to coronavirus contact tracing.
  • The Governor’s COVID-19 Winter Task Force, enacted in November 2020 and made up of hospital executives, with the goal of keeping Arkansas hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients during the winter months.

None of the groups have been active since January 2022 at the latest.

Sanders’ order cited President Joe Biden’s statement in September 2022 that “the pandemic is over” as a reason to repeal Hutchinson’s executive orders.

Arkansas has seen a total of ​​991,361 cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, including 403 new cases Friday, according to data from the state Department of Health. As of Friday, 5,677 cases are considered currently infectious.

12,750 Arkansans have died of COVID-19, and 59.6% of the state’s population aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Health Department data.

The Health Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement declined to comment on the executive order, citing a need for more information.

Gov. Sanders Executive Order January 13, 2023

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.

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