Gov. Hutchinson: State is in “Public Health Emergency”, calls for special session
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that the state is in a public health emergency and has re-instituted a public health emergency in the state for 60 days.
The governor gave his remarks in Little Rock and said the 60-day emergency will be reviewable by the state legislature in the committee of the whole, according to state law.
Gov. Hutchinson also called for a special session next week of the legislature to amend Act 1002 to give more power to local school districts on the mask issue, dealing with children 12 and under.
However, the governor said there will not be a statewide mask mandate, based on a state law that took effect this week.
The governor said he has also spoken with school superintendents around the state, saying most have said they want the local decision-making process.
Gov. Hutchinson updated the public on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
On Wednesday, July 28, the ADH reported 1,703 new cases; 1,064 people hospitalized; and 209 people on ventilators. The state also recorded 12 more deaths.
Gov. Hutchinson said Thursday that the state had 2,843 new cases, with 11 additional deaths.
The governor said he also wants to accelerate the number of vaccines given between now and the time school starts on Aug. 16.
Gov. Hutchinson said he has also spoken with the White House about receiving help from surge response teams.
The news conference comes as Hutchinson and lawmakers face growing calls to lift the state’s ban on mask mandates in public schools.
The announcement on the special session drew a response from Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray.
“The governor is in a tough spot and these are some important first steps, that based on the surging COVID case numbers, couldn’t be delayed any longer. It should be a given that protecting our children is one of our state’s most fundamental responsibilities. But members of his own party like Sen. Trent Garner are out there threatening the Governor and those of us who want to protect children in schools, telling news media there will be ‘consequences,’” Gray said. “The consequences of Garner’s ill conceived legislation to prohibit mask rules will far outweigh any hurt feelings he may have from the Governor returning these decisions back to local school boards and parents. We need to trust parents and our local schools to make the best decisions for themselves and their own lives. I hope the Legislature is thinking about all of those school kids under 12 who can’t protect themselves with a vaccine, and I hope they do the right thing to let local decision makers do what’s best for their communities.”
Sen. Garner responded on social media that he believes a push for a mask mandate would also be ill-conceived.
You can watch the governor’s full briefing here:
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