Governor Asa Hutchinson issued new mandates for church congregations on Tuesday due to the surging COVID-19 numbers across the state.
The mandates come after hundreds of people across the state say they attended church services in the days before being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The new mandate requires masks to be worn at all times by all congregants, except those who are medically exempt, especially while singing. Congregants must also stay 6 feet apart, both indoors and outdoors.
Health officials said on Tuesday that “unmasked congregational singing” is the primary source of outbreaks at churches, even while members are socially distanced.
“The number of cases we’ve seen across Arkansas that come from places of worship has increased,” Hutchinson said at a news conference. “When you have a congregation of people, there is a risk associated with it the vast majority of places of worship are taking precautions but there is that risk.”