Mask Mandate in Arkansas—Is it Over Yet?

Kenny Doan

Since July 2020, mask have been a must in public areas in Arkansas, whether it would be in small businesses or outside in a venue. As the new COVID-19 vaccines are readily available, numerous source outlets have speculated that Gov. Asa Hutchinson would soon lift the mask mandates and is set to end on March 31. This would mean that COVID-19 directives will no longer carry penalties for businesses or individuals and the directives would also be considered as “guidances,” or those with strong recommendations based on medical advice. 

In accordance with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), Arkansas’ mask mandate will end March 31, but only if the 7-day rolling average of testing positivity rate remains below 10% after an average of 7,500 people are tested daily. If testings are below 7,500 people daily, the number of hospitalized patients as well as having fewer than 750 patients hospitalized statewide for COVID-19 would be the “trigger” to end the mask mandate. 

For Businesses

Some businesses who were previously fined for violating statewide COVID-19 restrictions will be refunded, however businesses are now incentivized to follow the recommendations for liability protection. There will be other policies (e.g. capacity limit) that will be lifted along with the mask mandate for bars, restaurants, gums, and large venues. However, businesses still have rights to adjust their own COVID-19 safety protocols as well capacity limits that best suit their operation. 

For Schools 

In regards to schools, mask mandates will remain in place at the discretion of local school boards. Events such as prom, sporting events, and graduation can be held as well. The quarantine requirements won’t necessarily change for the time being. Despite the mask mandates being lifted, some school districts such as Springdale would still keep the face mask requirement even if the restrictions are lifted. Our local school district, Fort Smith Schools, are currently waiting on further guidance from the governor before making any decisions.

 

In conclusion, COVID-19 is still a problem in some areas with constantly increasing numbers of positive cases of the coronavirus. Wearing masks, socially distancing, and sanitizing high exposed areas is currently still relevant as the numbers are increasing, whether it be slowly or rapidly and especially with those who have been vaccinated. It is still highly recommended to wear a mask around crowded areas and to social distance, so once the mask mandates have been lifted, be sure to have a mask handy when walking around crowded areas.