Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that he is reinstating a public health emergency in the state and is calling a special session of the legislature to lift the prohibition on mask requirements for K-12 students in public schools.
Hutchinson held a Thursday afternoon press conference to break the news, as the state recorded its highest single-day total of COVID-19 cases — 2,843 — since January. But the number of COVID patients in Arkansas hospitals dropped by nine to 1,055 after rising for 23 straight days. The state’s death toll attributed to the virus rose by 11 to 6,110.
Hutchinson also announced that he asked the federal government to send a surge response team to help evaluate the state’s hospital capacity, will ask other states to send health care workers to Arkansas and will ease licensure requirements to help hospitals with staffing.
“We are in a public health emergency, and for that reason I am reinstating the statewide public health emergency as of today,” Hutchinson said.
The special session likely will take place next week, he said, and be limited to making an exemption for K-12 students since vaccines haven’t been authorized for children under 12.