Arkansas Gov. extending public health emergency another month; mask mandate could end if criteria is met

FULL UPDATE: Gov. Hutchinson announces 3 major COVID response changes for Arkansas 2/26/21

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday that he is extending the public health emergency another month, until March 31. The current order was set to end Feb. 27.

Hutchinson also announced that on March 31, the statewide mask mandate would end, as long as certain public health goals are obtained.

The third big announcement Hutchinson said was that all public health directives will be considered guidance, meaning they are recommendations without penalties.

Hutchinson said all other directives, besides the statewide mask mandate, will become guidelines now.

Hutchinson said, “If cases go up, the emergency order remains in place, and we can decide whether to reinstate guidelines as “mandates” (or directives), instead of guidance. “We expect people to keep their nose to the grindstone” to get back to a more normal life,” Hutchinson said.

Dr. Romero says this should not change behavior, “Masks, hand washing is all still necessary.” “It is essential we all receive the vaccine,” Dr. Romero says. “It’s the only way we move out of this pandemic,” he says.

Hutchinson said, “You can’t keep directives in place forever. At some point, we have to move away from those directives, and this gives us a safe path to move forward.”

“If behavior changes and results in the increased spread, we’re going to know it, and for that reason, the emergency stays in place. Then we might have to re-engage with more public health measures,” Hutchinson said.

As for schools:

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