Arkansas judge blocks statewide ban on mask mandates

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An Arkansas judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state from enforcing its ban on mask mandates, AP reports.

Driving the news: Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against a law signed in April by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson that banned governmental entities from implementing mask mandates.

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  • Fox ruled against the measure on multiple grounds, including that it discriminated between public and private schools, per AP.

Driving the news: Fox's decision came hours after the state legislature upheld the state's mask mandate ban during a special session called by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

  • Hutchinson sought to amend the law amid rising cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, especially among children 12 and under who can't get vaccinated. The Republican said this week that he regrets signing the ban into law.

  • "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," Hutchinson said.

  • An Arkansas House panel rejected two measures to allow for some school districts to issue mask requirements, per AP. Critics of lifting the ban testified before the legislature, often citing false claims about the virus.

The big picture: Calls for rolling back the mask ban in Arkansas are mounting, especially after more than 800 students and faculty have quarantined in a school district in east Arkansas because of a COVID-19 outbreak, per AP.

What they're saying: "I think we’re going to come to really regret not taking action,” Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram, the chamber’s minority leader, said. "I just hope the consequences aren’t fatal for children or staff or teachers in this state."

Go deeper: Arkansas governor says he regrets banning mask mandates

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