Arkansas Gov. lifts statewide mask mandate, opens vaccines to 16 and older

Mask mandate lifted in Arkansas

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As of Tuesday all three states in the Mid-South have no mask mandates in place.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday afternoon along with a vaccine update.

“I’m announcing today that the statewide mask mandate will be lifted, effective today,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said based on hospitalization numbers he feels it’s appropriate to lift the mask mandate.

HAPPENING NOW: Governor Asa Hutchinson provides Friday's update on Arkansas's COVID-19 response.

HAPPENING NOW: Governor Asa Hutchinson provides Tuesday's update on Arkansas's COVID-19 response.

Posted by WMC Action News 5 on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

“While we are lifting the statewide mask mandate it does not mean that it ends in every venue, and people will make their own decision in that regard both business and individuals,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson continued to say he’s leaving it up to businesses to decide if they want to continue enforcing masks.

As for schools, officials with the West Memphis School District say:

“The Governor announced today that he is lifting the statewide mask mandate requiring all Arkansans to wear masks when in public. This announcement does not change the guidance and recommendations for schools from the Arkansas Department of Health. West Memphis School District adopted a policy for this school year in adherence to these recommendations. The procedures we have followed since the beginning of the year have largely prevented person-to-person spread of the virus among students and staff. For this reason, the district will continue to follow ADH recommendations and the district’s mask policy through the end of the 2020-2021 school year or until further notice.” Jon Collins, Superintendent of Schools.

Hutchinson also said municipalities are not restricted from taking separate actions.

West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon told WMC he’s concerned about the impact of the announcement.

“I feel that we should have held on until at least May especially when I viewed and overlooked the vaccination map for the state of Arkansas and seen that many of the counties have not yet met the state’s guidelines or goal of what we wanted to be at this point,” said McClendon.

McClendon also said the city will continue to have a mask resolution in place which was issued last year in May.

Another major announcement Hutchinson made, vaccines are now open to anyone 16 and older.

“We’re opening it up because we want to make sure we maximize every opportunity to get this life saving vaccine into the arms of Arkansas,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson also said after a call with the White House COVID-19 task force he estimates the state will receive 25,000 additional doses of the vaccine this week.

As of Tuesday 398,951 Arkansans have been fully vaccinated.

Hutchinson also acknowledged the number of new variant cases is increasing, but said it’s an appropriate time to lift the mask mandate because people know what to do to avoid the spread of the virus.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.