New cases of COVID-19 are spiking in Arkansas, thanks to a combination of the Delta variant and the state’s paltry vaccination rate. In response to the rising numbers, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that things have now reached a state of emergency—but there will be no serious measures taken to try and mitigate that emergency. “We are in a public health emergency, and for that reason, I am reinstating the statewide public health emergency as of today,” Hutchinson said in a televised announcement shared online by The Recount. “There will be no statewide mask mandate imposed by me. There’s no discussion about restrictions on business mandates on businesses. We are wide open in Arkansas. We’re going to be doing business in Arkansas… We have to live with the threat of the virus.”
Hutchinson, a graduate of South Carolina’s ultraconservative Bob Jones University—an evangelical institution that in March 2000 finally dropped its ban on interracial dating— did make one concession to commonly accepted public health guidelines: The governor said he will call for a special legislative session next week to amend a statewide ban on mask mandates passed in April, and allow local school districts to determine their own mask policies regarding children ages 12 and younger, according to local news station KAIT.