Asa Hutchinson Calls Special Session to Mask Arkansas School Children

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stands next to a chart displaying COVID-19 hospitalization data as he speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, July 29, 2021. Hutchinson announced he was calling a special session to take up a proposal to lift the state’s ban …
AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Thursday a special congressional session in Arkansas to vote on school mask mandates, while also reinstating the Public Health Emergency Declaration.

Hutchinson wants the legislature “to amend Act 1002 to give local school boards and decision-makers the authority to impose a mask mandate and make decisions for the public health of those that are 12 and under in their school environment,” KNWA Fox reported.

“It needs to be emphasized that, while there’s not a mandate, every student has the option to wear a mask, and the guideline will be, if you’re not vaccinated, you should wear a mask, and so that will provide them protection if that’s followed,” Hutchinson said in mid-July.

The Public Health Emergency Declaration is meant to “seek the necessary staffing assistance in health care programs across Arkansas and to ease licensure health care professions for returning to the profession after they have retired or to speed entry into service.”

The reinstated protocols, which ended in May, will be extended for 60 days and be reviewed by the General Assembly.

The Arkansas legislature, however, can “terminate an emergency declaration by passing a concurrent resolution in a committee of the whole, in both the House and Senate. Emergency declarations are also limited to 60 days, unless approved for extension by the Legislative Council.”

Hutchinson initially ended the emergency declaration May 30 because “everybody in Arkansas knows what to do.”

“The reason that we’re ending the public health emergency declaration is that everybody in Arkansas knows what to do,” he said. “Our hospitalizations are down. Every adult in Arkansas — in fact, 12 plus years of age —has access to vaccines that we did not have access to before.”

“It’s not an emergency,” he explained. “It’s a maintenance of effort in terms of our vaccines and managing the pandemic.”

As of July 27, Arkansas is experiencing 11 deaths on a seven day average, according to Google’s coronavirus tracking system.

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