Due to the current COVID-10 pandemic and the recommendations of the White House and the Center for Disease Control, county and city officials have issued a joint statement encouraging families to practice strict social distancing and to cancel travel plans.

“Saline County Judge Jeff Arey, Benton Mayor Tom Farmer and Circuit Judge Robert Herzfeld are strongly recommending that Saline County parents and guardians take firm common sense measures to voluntarily limit and when possible eliminate person-to-person social interactions between their family members and others not in their household,” the joint statement said. 

Farmer praised local residents for their responses and encouraged them to continue.

“We applaud the many folks who have shown tremendous initiative and creativity in social distancing,” Farmer said. “Many parents are already taking these or similar precautions, but as public servants we believe we have a responsibility to encourage these robust measures. The more we can slow the spread, the safer we all are, the more time we’re buying to develop treatments and possible cures and the sooner we can all get back to normal.” 

Arey went into greater detail on the importance of canceling or rescheduling vacation plans, saying that his own family has had to cancel plans to be part of his daughter’s wedding out of state.

“We understand that many families may have plans to travel for spring break or other purposes in the next several weeks,” Arey said. "We are asking everyone to cancel their travel plans or postpone them until the crisis is over. Most of the new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas are travel-related. These are incredibly difficult decisions. 

"My daughter lives in Arizona and is scheduled to get married there in two weeks. My family has been absolutely devastated that we will not be able to be a part of her wedding. But no matter how hard that decision is, it is the right call. We will participate by Facetime and phone and know that on the other side of this, we will be together again to celebrate. It’s important that everyone understand that we’re not asking anyone to do more than we’re willing to do ourselves.”

Herzfeld, who presides over juvenile court, guardianships and has two teenaged sons, has also been personally affected by the policies.

“In the interest of their extended family and the community as a whole, parents and guardians should require their children — particularly their teenagers who have vehicles — to stay at home at all times rather than spending ‘in person’ time with other young people who may already be contagious but not demonstrating symptoms,” Herzfeld said. “The difficult — and correct — decision to close schools is a wasted effort if kids from different households are still hanging out together — even in small groups or one-on-one.” 

The recommendations are more specific and targeted than those issued before, but the officials believe they are essential.

“It broke my heart to tell my 17-year-old-son he couldn’t leave the house to go visit someone he cares about deeply and whose family we trust absolutely,” Herzfeld said. “But, in times of crisis, we adults have to make tough decisions and stand by them for the good of our families and our community.”

According to the officials, while the recommendations are not mandated, they implore the public to adhere to them. They are designed to keep everyone safer and to limit community exposure to COVID-19 during these unusual times. 

The more everyone follows these recommendations, the less necessary it will be to take additional governmental action to preserve the health and safety the community.

“We are aware that there will be significant challenges — economic, emotional and otherwise to carrying out these guidelines,” Farmer said. “We ask everyone to use their very best judgment as we move forward together to save lives. We are praying for all of you, and we ask that you pray for us.”

On Thursday, the most recent update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson confirmed that their are 62 cases of COVID-19 within the state.