Aug 6, 2021 - COVID

Judge says Arkansas can't enforce mask mandate ban

Illustration of a general prohibition symbol, with a gavel as a crossbar.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday temporarily blocked Arkansas from enforcing Act 1002, which bans public entities from requiring masks, the Associated Press reported.

Context: Multiple lawsuits were filed challenging the ban.

  • In a special session this week, the legislature voted down bills that would have allowed school districts to require masks in places with students under 12, who cannot get vaccinated against COVID-19.

What it means: Public schools — including any grade level and universities — can now require students, staff and faculty to wear masks.

Why it matters: The Delta variant and the state's low vaccination rate (42% of Arkansans 12 and up are fully vaccinated) have caused another public health emergency. Hospitals are back to seeing peak numbers.

  • And more kids are getting sick, with some in the ICU and on ventilators. Three Arkansas children have died since December.

Yes, but: This is a preliminary injunction. The legal battle is not over.

What's next: It's up to local school boards and other public governing bodies to decide if they will implement mask mandates while the lawsuits make their way through the courts.


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