Arkansas governor regrets mask ban as state hits hospitalization record


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing something some Republican governors have said they’d never do — calling for people to wear masks again.

Last week, a local judge ruled mask mandates for schools can happen even after the Repulican-led legislature went against Hutchinson and banned the mandates.

It was originally a law the governor agreed with and even signed, but since his signature he’s changed his mind. 

“We thought the whole coronavirus was over with. We were moving in the right direction, all of a sudden the delta variant comes back and a leader responds to new facts, new information, and you have to adjust and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Hutchinson said in an exclusive interview with “And we’re adjusting for the protection of our children, and to give our schools the best opportunity to succeed next year.”

But the records keep falling. Hospitalizations increased by 103 with 25 new cases on ventilators. Those are both daily records. Hutchinson says 20% of the new cases are from children ages 18 and younger.

“We have not seen that before,” he said. “And that’s new with the delta variant.”

Children younger than 12 are not eligible for the vaccine. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said politicians will not rush their approval even if the delta variant surge continues.

“All of this is being done by the experts, not by just anyone in Washington, D.C.,” he said in an exclusive interview on NewsNation Prime. “You got to leave this in the hands of the medical experts, they will report to us shortly.”

Now the choice is up to each Arkansas school district about whether they’ll follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that everyone in the building should wear a mask. While meetings are called at schoolhouses around Arkansas, Hutchinson is touring his state asking people to take the vaccine.

“We’re not going to win this as a state and have normal life, which I want, until we win it as a community and a state,” he said. “And so it is a team effort.”

The Republican admits help is needed as his state hits highs not seen so far in this pandemic.

“It has been exhausting,” he said. “This is not something you campaign for. And you say I want to be governor because I’ve got to lead in a pandemic. That’s not what we expected.”

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