LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ Republican governor said Thursday that he will call lawmakers back to the Capitol to consider lifting the state’s ban on mask requirements in public schools as the state faces a surge in coronavirus cases.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he will call the majority-Republican Legislature into session likely next week to amend a state law that prohibits state and local government entities from requiring face masks. Hutchinson said he’ll propose allowing local school boards to make the decision.
Arkansas’ coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, fueled by the delta variant of the virus and the state’s low vaccination rate. The state reported more than 2,800 new virus cases on Thursday. The state ranks second in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Hutchinson and legislative leaders have faced growing calls to revisit the ban, at least for public schools. Hutchinson said he’s proposing keeping the rest of the mask mandate ban in place and did not plan to call for another state mask requirement.
Hutchinson also reinstated an emergency declaration because of the virus, two months after he lifted the declaration he issued early on in the pandemic last year.