Arkansas church to be told to halt large services amid virus

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FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock Ark. Gov. Hutchinson is resisting issuing a broad stay-at-home order to curb the coronavirus outbreak, even as the state's cases continue to increase. Health officials on Thursday, March 2, 2020, said the number of coronavirus cases in the state had risen to at least 643, with two additional deaths. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) — An Arkansas church that insisted it would continue meeting despite restrictions implemented by officials due to the coronavirus will be ordered by officials to suspend large group gatherings. Gov. Asa Hutchinson tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Awaken Church in Jonesboro would be notified ahead of its Sunday services and a directive would be issued. Hutchinson says previous attempts to convince the church’s pastor, Chad Gonzales, to halt his large services were unsuccessful. In an email, Gonzales tells the newspaper he would comply with the order, but believed he was complying with public-health guidelines in order to continue holding services.