Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Looking For That Jerk Who Banned Mask Mandates
With coronavirus cases surging in Arkansas and a COVID-19 outbreak already having led to quarantines in one school district, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is rethinking the wisdom of a state law banning mask mandates being ordered by any state agencies, local governments, or school districts. Hutchinson signed the law, Act 1002, in April, but now says he regrets it, whoever allowed it to happen:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) says he regrets signing law banning local mask mandates, as COVID cases quickly rise in… https://t.co/4FjouQloGq— The Recount (@The Recount) 1628078886.0
Hutchinson noted that back in April, he'd signed the law because "cases were at a low point," you see. This just makes sense! Any fool knows that when there's a lull in an outbreak of a deadly disease, you should prove you hate big government by preventing any future public health measures that might control an outbreak. What is this word "future" anyway? That is a word for stupid Democrats to worry about.
Despite Hutchinson's admirable commitment to doing nothing unpopular, the Delta variant has been surging among the state's largely unvaccinated population. Only about 36 percent of Arkansans are vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country. On Monday, the state's health department reported 42 deaths and the highest one-day spike in hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic over a year ago.
"Everything has changed now. And yes, In hindsight, I wish that had not become law," Hutchinson said yesterday, using passive voice to make it clear the mask ban had just happened kind of on its own.
Hutchinson has not at this time announced whether he will go in search of the law's real signer.
Hutchinson called a special session of the Arkansas Legislature, beginning today, with the aim of amending the law to allow schools to require masking for children under the age of 12, since coronavirus vaccines have not yet been approved for that age group.
Just to be sure he stayed on the right side of the people who think public health is communism, Hutchinson made clear last week that he was happy to let mature adult Arkansans aged 12 and up make their own choices about whether to risk spreading a deadly respiratory virus:
"This is not a debate about mask mandates for those that can make their own decisions and have the means to get vaccinated," Hutchinson said a news conference at the state Capitol. "This is a discussion about the school environment where schools can make decisions about the public health for their school environment and the children they have responsibility to protect."
Despite the narrowness of the exception Hutchinson is calling for, Republican leaders in the state Lege say it's unlikely there's enough support to change the law, even with cases rising dramatically, because what part of "Arkansas Republican legislators" did you not understand? Passing an amendment to the law would require a two-thirds majority in both houses, and at this point, ain't gonna happen:
"As of right now, I don't see us getting it this week," Senate President Jimmy Hickey told reporters earlier Tuesday. Republican House Speaker Matthew Shepherd [said] he also didn't believe there were enough votes in his chamber at this point to pass any changes to the mask mandate ban.
House Public Health Committee Chairman Jack Ladyman said he's hearing overwhelmingly from constituents in his district opposed to rolling back the law.
"I believe it's going to have tough sledding wherever it goes," Ladyman, a Republican, said.
As an alternative, we suppose the Arkansas Lege might have more success allowing citizens to simply shoot at the virus or at anyone they suspect may be carrying a syringe containing vaccine. Or maybe some people personally known to legislators will contract COVID-19, which seems to be the only way Republicans can experience — what is it you Democrats say? — the "empathy."
Any legislative action on the matter is already running up against the start of the new, maskless school year in some parts of the state, AL.com reports:
The Marion School District, in east Arkansas, has more than 500 students and staff quarantined because of an outbreak, its superintendent said in a letter to lawmakers. The 4,000-student school district, which began classes last week, said more than two dozen students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
Superintendent Glen Fenter urged lawmakers to allow school districts to enact their own mask bans, saying "communities should be afforded the right to choose their own course."
It is unclear at this point whether Superintendent Fenter will testify, either before the special session of the legislature, or at his own inevitable trial for treason against freedom and America.
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