Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who lifted most COVID-19 restrictions put in place on businesses in his state last week, has reaffirmed that he is committed to ending a statewide mask mandate should hospitalizations and the number of reported cases continue to fall.
In an email to Breitbart News, Katie Beck, director of communications for Hutchinson, stated, “The Governor lifted all restrictions last Friday, converting the directives to guidelines. Restaurants can open to 100 percent capacity.”
Beck, while noting that directives have now shifted to guidelines, also stated the mandate will remain in effect until the last day of March, but remained optimistic that Hutchinson could end the mandate after he works with health officials in the state to review “COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations” in Arkansas.
“The mask mandate will remain in effect until March 31, 2021,” Beck told Breitbart News. “The Governor, in consultation with state health officials, will make a determination on whether to renew the mask mandate based on COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations in the state throughout the next month.”
Last Friday, Hutchinson addressed residents in the state and announced the extension of the state’s public health emergency and mask mandate until the end of this month.
At the conference, Hutchinson provided viewers with a mask mandate renewal evaluation graphic that highlighted his concerns and the two requirements needed to end the mandate:
- A value below 10% combined PCR and antigen positivity rate (7-day rolling average) with at least 7500 specimens tested on average daily would be actionable
- If testing is below 7500 average specimens daily, then the number of hospitalized patients would serve as the indicator for action. Fewer than 750 patients hospitalized state-wide for COVID-19 would be the trigger.
“If we meet these benchmarks, then the mask mandate will be lifted on March 31,” Hutchinson said during the press conference.
Last week, Dr. Jose Romero, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said the state has “shown significant progress with regard to number of cases and number of hospitalizations.”
“We will still need to wear our masks, maintain social distancing, wash our hands, those are going to be essential in keeping this pandemic that is affecting our state under control,” Romero said of the restaurants retaining the right to operate at full capacity.
According to sources close to the matter, Alabama will soon join several other states nationwide in removing its mandate requiring masks in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Governors in Texas and Mississippi announced earlier this week that they would lift their statewide mandates requiring face masks and allow businesses to return to 100 percent operating capacity.