Arkansas legislators push for changes to bill that bans mask mandates

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 10:14 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thursday morning, Arkansas legislators will be back at it, trying to come up with a compromise to a bill that bans mask mandates in the Natural State.

It’s a ban even the governor says he regrets signing into law as cases continue to rise to dangerous levels.

There are currently over 20,000 active cases in the state and only 25 ICU beds in the entire state.

The Marion superintendent was pleading with lawmakers Wednesday to bring back local control when it comes to mandating masks. A COVID-19 outbreak in the district has left 700 students in quarantine.

Representative Julia Mayberry introduced a bill that would allow school districts in the “hot zone,” like Marion County, to mandate masks for no longer than 60 days.

After several hours of debate Wednesday, Mayberry ultimately decided to pull the bill.

State Senator Keith Ingram of West Memphis tweeted Wednesday afternoon: “And as we debate here in Little Rock whether or not to allow schools to enforce masks, children are getting sicker and sicker.”

Hospitals are also getting fuller and fuller.

Just a short distance from the special session in Little Rock is the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The state’s only level-one trauma center is struggling to keep up with demand. The staff is exhausted by the extra patients brought on by COVID-19.

“We’ve had people literally walk off the job because they couldn’t take it anymore, said Dr. Ken Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.

Health leaders in the state are pushing for increased vaccinations as only about 37 percent of Arkansans are fully vaccinated.

The Senate Committee on Education will convene Thursday at 9 a.m. to discuss mask mandates in education.

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