Hutchinson Eases Many COVID-19 Restrictions

From: KTLO/Associated Press

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday lifted most of the safety restrictions it placed on businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus, and said he’ll end a mask mandate next month if the state’s test positivity or hospitalizations are low.

Hutchinson announced the rollback of the safety rules as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the coronavirus pandemic until the end of March. The governor announced the move as he’s faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the state’s virus safety rules.

The limits being lifted include capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms and large venues. Hutchinson left open the possibility of reinstating the restrictions if there’s another surge in cases.

Hutchinson said the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 specimens tested on an average daily basis. If the state tests fewer specimens, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients.

Arkansas has recently seen a drop in new cases and hospitalizations. Arkansas as of Thursday had a test positivity rate of about 10%. The state on Thursday reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19.

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