Arkansas governor reinstates public health emergency declaration and asks for federal assistance

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is concerned over the spread of COVID-19 in his state.

“This is not a good day in terms of our COVID cases. Over the last 24 hours, we’ve has an additional 2,843 new COVID cases in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said that is one of the highest numbers they’ve reported since the pandemic started, but admits it has been higher.

When it comes to hospitalizations, numbers are up compared to last year. Currently 53 percent of ventilated patients are testing positive, a majority of those infected are unvaccinated. Hutchinson reinstated the public health emergency declaration for 60 days effective immediately, and that’s not all.

“I have spoken to the White House today and I’ve asked for assistance at the federal level to come to Arkansas to help us to evaluate to analyze our bed capacity for COVID patients,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson continued to say the White House is sending the surge response team, which will help evaluate, analyze, and maximize hospital space.

With 24 patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the governor said he’s concerned about children 12 and under who are not eligible to get vaccinated and is looking to amend Act 1002.

“I will be calling a special session of legislature most likely next week to amend Act 1002 to give local school boards, local decision makers the authority to make a decision,” Hutchinson said.

Marion Schools Superintendent Dr. Glen Fenter says this is a step in the right direction and says if amended he would move to require masks.

“That’s a decision our board would have to make after spending some time reviewing the facts. My recommendation, based on what I know today, is yes we would to pursue to make that option,” Fenter said.

Both Fenter and the governor say it’s not going to be easy to amend Act 1002, but the governor says he’s confident.

The governor also made it clear he will not issue a statewide mask mandate.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.