Questioned about his ban on local officials enacting mask mandates in April at a press conference on Tuesday, Hutchinson was surprisingly open about his change in position.
“Everything has changed now,” the governor said. “And yes in hindsight, I wish that had not become law. But it is the law. And the only chance we have is either to amend it or for the court to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”
Hutchinson is one of multiple Republican governors to sign bills into law that push back against potential vaccine passports or mask mandates.
Arkansas is seeing its highest Covid-19 cases since January. Less than half of adults in the state are fully vaccinated, and the state has the third lowest vaccination rate in the country.
Hutchinson’s criticism of a law he signed led to heavy mockery online from liberal critics.
Hutchinson is now calling for a special state legislative session to reevaluate the ban, which the governor argued he signed into law when Covid-19 cases were dropping.
The Republican governor did not go as far as some Democrats have in recent weeks by calling for an actual mask mandate across the state, but did appear open to mask mandates dictated by school districts.
“The local school districts should make the call, and they should have more options to make sure that their school is a safe environment during a very challenging time for education,” he said.
The state’s health secretary, Jose Romero, added that coronavirus cases among young people have been rising dramatically in recent months. Cases among those under 18, the health secretary said, rose by 500% from the month of April to July. Hospitalizations for people under 18, meanwhile, have reportedly increased by over 200%.
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