Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday issued a preliminary injunction against the law passed by the Arkansas state legislature that prohibits public entities including schools from requiring masks.
Act 1002 was passed by state lawmakers this past spring, and a special session was called this week to consider amendments to it. But the legislature adjourned Friday without taking any action on the law.
Fox’s injunction will last until a trial is scheduled. The judge said Friday he would expedite the process so the Arkansas Supreme Court can hear the case soon, which he expects to happen. Fox’s ruling cited the discrimination between public and private schools as one of the grounds on which he ruled against the law.
His ruling also said the law can’t be enforced in “any shape, fashion or form” pending further court action.
The law is being challenged by two lawsuits as the nation experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the bill into law but was in favor of modifications, which he said would protect children under 12 who can’t receive the vaccination. Lawmakers who supported the law cited overwhelming responses from constituents in favor of prohibiting public schools from requiring masks.
Meanwhile, speaking in Fort Smith on Friday, Hutchinson said he had requested $200 million in federal funds for increased bed space for COVID patients and additional nursing staff. He said roughly 15 percent of the hospital population in the state currently consists of COVID patients.