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Governor Lifts Mask Mandate, Opens COVID-19 Vaccinations to All Arkansans 16 and Older

Governor's Office

During his weekly coronavirus response briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson made two major announcements: the mask mandate has been lifted and all Arkansans 16 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine. The decision to lift the mask mandate was expected and the governor said he made his decision based on the state meeting the benchmarks he set out last month, which included having fewer than 750 hospitalized virus patients. Right now, Arkansas hospitals have fewer than 200 such patients. However, Hutchinson stressed he is not calling for a moratorium on masks and businesses can still require them. He also said he expects Arkansans to observe those requests from business owners or go elsewhere. The expansion of vaccination eligibility comes as the supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to outpace demand. Hutchinson said Arkansas will be receiving larger weekly supplies of vaccines for at least the next three weeks. The governor's announcements come after the state has seen several weeks of reduced virus numbers, but Hutchinson said the mission is not accomplished until more Arkansans get the vaccine. Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero provided an update on COVID-19 variants, several of which have been found in limited and isolated numbers in the state. With the lifting of the mask mandate, Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key also announced each public school district will be able to take its own approach to the measure as the school year nears its end. To watch the full briefing, click here.

Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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