Arkansas is ending its statewide mask mandate and expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include all adults, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.
The decision to roll back the mask mandate was made in consultation with the Arkansas Department of Health after authorities determined the state had met earlier guidelines on COVID-19 cases, the governor’s office stated in a press release. But businesses will still have the right to require customers to wear masks.
“I’ve talked to a number of restaurant owners who will continue requiring masks within their restaurant for the safety of their employees and patrons,” Hutchinson said Tuesday during his weekly COVID-19 update. “Please be respectful and mindful that, while the mask mandate has been lifted, many businesses will continue to require it.”
During today’s COVID-19 update, I announced that the statewide mask mandate is lifted, effective today, and that all Arkansans 16 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. https://t.co/xKc6DijMQn pic.twitter.com/dvuxmIrBmd
— Gov. Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) March 30, 2021
Hutchinson issued the mask mandate in July 2020. It required adults to wear masks in all indoor areas with non-household members where social distancing was not possible.
In addition to businesses, school districts also have the option of continuing to enforce a mask mandate, a decision that must be made by April 15, according to KATV. Cities will be able to enact their own mask ordinances, but they can not be enforced under state law.
Hutchinson also announced Tuesday the state will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include everyone over the age of 16.
“We want Arkansans to get vaccinated because it is our path out of the pandemic,” he said. “It is the way to get there quicker, and we want to ensure we give every Arkansan that opportunity.” (RELATED: A Weepy CDC Director Insists America Is Facing ‘Doom.’ Do The Facts Match The Hysteria?)
Roughly one-quarter of Arkansas residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and around 12% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
By ending its mask mandate, Arkansas joins a handful of states including Texas and Mississippi in rolling back statewide COVID-19 restrictions this month. President Joe Biden urged state governors Monday to implement mask mandates again if they had relaxed them in recent weeks.