The Arkansas Department of Health has issued a cease-and-desist letter for what could have been the first concert of the coronavirus era. The show was set to take place in Fort Smith, Ark., on Friday — three days before the state is set to allow businesses to open in a limited capacity.
The event organizers originally announced the show in April, with certain safety precautions in place: Tickets were sold in groups that would be seated at least 6 feet apart; attendees would have their temperatures taken at entry points; and the normally 1,100-capacity venue would be reduced to 229 people. But the event was still in violation of the state's health directives.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news conference Tuesday that he would issue a cease-and-desist warning to the venue, and later that day, the state health department followed through. The letter stressed that even after the state is set to allow businesses to open in a limited capacity on May 18, a "large indoor venue" would only be allowed to host 50 people or fewer.
According to the cease-and-desist letter, the state Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith had tried to get the event manager to postpone:
"On May 11, 2020, I personally advised you by phone through counsel that you should postpone your event, and as of today's date, it is my understanding that you intend to violate the orders of the Governor and the Health Directive by holding your event on May 15."
NPR has reached out to the concert promoter, TempleLive, to see whether the show is still scheduled to go on (tickets were still on sale as of Wednesday afternoon) but has not yet received a response. TempleLive has also announced a separate event with Friday's scheduled performer, Travis McCready, on Saturday at an outdoor distillery venue in Missouri,which has eased its restrictions on public gatherings, provided people maintain social distance.
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