Aug 4, 2021 - Health

Arkansas governor says he regrets banning mask mandates

Picture of Arkansas Gov.  Asa Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday he regrets signing a bill into law that banned local mask mandates in the state.

State of play: Hutchinson has called on the state legislature to amend the law to let school districts decide whether to require face coverings when they return to in-person learning this fall.

What he's saying: "There is no state wide mask mandate. I'm not in favor of a statewide mask mandate," Hutchinson said at a news conference. "There are no government vaccine mandates as well, but we do have a vulnerable group that is not eligible for the vaccine."

  • "The local school districts should make the call and they should have more options to make sure that their school is a safe environment during a very challenging time for education."

Catch up fast: Hutchinson signed the bill as COVID-19 cases were declining in March.

  • "In hindsight, I wish that it had not become law," he said Tuesday.

What to watch: The Arkansas state legislature will begin a special session on Wednesday at 10 a.m. local time to look into the face coverings ban.

By the numbers: Arkansas has seen a 517% increase in new cases among people under age 18 between April and July, said Jose Remero, the state's health secretary, at the news conference. That number is 690% for children 12 and under.

  • Hospitalizations among people under 18 have increased nearly 270% in that time.
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