Months after banning local mask mandates this past April, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson admits that he regrets the decision. In a Tuesday (Aug. 3) press conference, Hutchinson made it clear that the surge of Delta variant COVID-19 cases had changed his mind about the policy.
“In hindsight, I wish that had not become law,” Hutchinson said of the law he put into action as COVID-19 rates declined. “But it is the law. So the only chance we have is to amend it or for the courts to say it has an unconstitutional foundation.”
“I signed it at the time because our [COVID-19] cases were at a very low point,” Hutchinson said at another point of the conference. “Everything has changed now.”
While Hutchinson wants to undo the legislation, he still wants to leave the decision of whether to institute mask mandates in the hand of local institutions.
“I understand that some legislators are reluctant to allow school boards this freedom, even in this limited way,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “But the exceptions for which I am asking are true to the conservative principle that puts control in the hands of local government.”
Hutchinson’s admission arrives as COVID-19 rates across the country have surged. A couple of weeks ago, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the U.S. was a pivotal point for dealing with the virus.
“The Delta variant is spreading with incredible efficiency and now represents more than 83 percent of the virus circulating in the United States,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “Compared to the virus we had circulating initially in the United States at the start of the pandemic, the Delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains. It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”