Jul 28, 2021 - COVID

State recommends unvaccinated students, staff wear masks this fall

Illustration of a child looking at a giant covid virus casting a long shadow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In guidelines issued Tuesday, the governor's office, Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas Department of Health recommend that unvaccinated students, faculty and staff wear masks indoors for the upcoming school year.

  • Individuals exposed to COVID-19 will need to quarantine for 10 days, or seven days with a negative test.
  • Vaccinated individuals exposed to COVID-19 will not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms.

Flashback: All schools had to require masks for most of the past school year because of the state's mask mandate, which ended March 31. The state legislature subsequently passed a law banning mask mandates.

State of play: In an open letter Tuesday, more than 500 Arkansas physicians, nurses and other health care workers called on Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the legislature to reconvene to re-evaluate Act 1002, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Between the lines: Coronavirus vaccines are only approved for kids 12 and older, so the new guidelines essentially mean that all younger students should be wearing masks this fall.

  • It's unclear how many 12 to 18-year-olds across the state are vaccinated.

The bottom line: These are guidelines, not requirements. And, there's little way to ensure the unvaccinated mask up.

  • Go deeper: Read the full guidance here.

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