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700 Kids Quarantined Just One Week After School Starts — Now Arkansas Governor Regrets Mask Mandate Ban

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson

After signing a bill earlier this year that banned statewide mask mandates, Republican Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, has now admitted he was in the wrong and regrets the decision.

As of this week, he has called the state legislature into a special session in an attempt to amend the law.

Why does Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson regret — and want to amend — the ban on mask mandates?

Hutchinson's "urgent need" to amend the law was likely caused by the public health changes brought on by the Delta variant.

Signed at a time when Covid cases were dropping, the law now exists amidst a growing public health crisis.

"In hindsight, I wish that it had not become law,” said Asa Hutchinson, “But it is the law, and the only chance we have is either to amend it or for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”

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Arkansas has low vaccination rates.

The lack of mask mandates poses a particularly dangerous threat to the state because Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the entirety of the U.S.

Only 37% of the population are fully vaccinated. With the delta variant on the rise, Arkansas’ COVID-19 cases have surged with 3,000 new cases as of Wednesday. Currently, 1,232 people are hospitalized.

As of August 4, 1,232 people are currently hospitalized in the state alone.

Covid is impacting Arkansas schools.

Arkansas' Marion School District has reported that 839 students and 10 staff members have been forced to quarantine after either testing positive or being exposed to the virus.

Classes began just last week. According to the district, 46 students and 10 staff have tested positive for the virus.

This has sparked a pushback against Hutchinson's original bill from parents and schools. Arkansas school are facing similar threats to schools in Florida where other restrictions on mask mandates are in place.

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Parents and school districts are suing Arkansas state over the mask mandate ban.

Two Arkansas parents filed a lawsuit in hopes to overturn the state mask mandate ban. This was followed by lawsuits from the Little Rock and Marion school districts' who are also seeking to overturn the "unconstitutional" ban.

Veronica McClane, one of the two parents, said, “We have to stop playing political games and put the lives of our children at the forefront of this pandemic.”

She has an eight-year-old and a three-year-old.

“While we have the opportunity to keep our child at home,” she said,” not all the parents here, in the state of Arkansas, have that option.”

Ashley Simmons, the other mother, said she hadn’t been able to sleep in weeks with the current rise of cases. Her son is at high risk.

"These kids are our future," she said, "And it’s our responsibility as the adults to protect them."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to amend the ban to let schools mandate masks.

Hutchinson's new proposal argues that school boards should "have the flexibility necessary to utilize masks to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in schools."

However, already two of his amendments — to allow children under 12 to have mask mandates and to place mask mandates in school for 21 days — have failed to garner votes.

It may be too little too late for Hutchinson to go back on his word.

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Izzy Casey is a writer who covers pop culture for YourTango. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has been published in The Iowa Review, BOAAT, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, The Columbia Review, and New York Tyrant.