LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is lifting most of its coronavirus safety restrictions, except for the state’s mask mandate.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday announced the decision as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the pandemic.
“Effective immediately, all other public health directives that have been issued will be converted to public health guidelines,” Gov. Hutchinson said. Guidance is a “strong recommendation based on medical advice.”
He says he doesn’t expect to see a change in behavior, like the State offices will keep wearing masks inside. He says businesses following the guidelines gives them protection and is an incentive.
“We are moving from directives to guidance. The examples of where this would make a difference would be restaurants, gyms, salons, indoor venues, and outdoor venues will be subject to the same guidance that we’ve had in the form of directives, but it will be guidance,” Gov. Hutchinson said
Hutchinson is extending the order until the end of March.
Hutchinson has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the virus safety rules.
Hutchinson said he’ll end the mask mandate if the state’s positivity rate or hospitalizations are low.
The rules being lifted include capacity limits for restaurants, bars, gyms, and large venues.