In an interview with KUAF that aired Tuesday, May 11, ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson discussed his concerns about recent legislative action to ban mask mandates in Arkansas.
“Senate Bill 590, now Act 1002, prohibits the executive branch at the state level or even at the municipal level from enforcing a mask mandate,” Thompson said. “I am concerned that this takes away an important emergency authority from leadership in our communities and at the state level. We don’t know when we’re going to have the next pandemic, and clearly, as a respiratory virus, masks and the mask requirement [were] an important source of defensive positioning until we could get vaccines.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed SB 590 into law in April. It will take effect July 27. The law does not apply to private businesses or state-run healthcare facilities.
In March, Hutchinson lifted his statewide mask mandate, a move that Thompson discussed in a March 31 interview with KATV.
After the statewide mask mandate ended, the ACHI Health Policy Board called on community leaders to enforce COVID-19 precautions at the local level. The board’s recommendations included mask mandates, which will be prohibited when Act 1002 takes effect.