“In hindsight, I wish that had not become law,” Hutchinson said during a news conference. “But it is the law, and the only chance we have is either to amend it or for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”
The ban allows state and local officials and entities to recommend using a face mask but requires them to “provide notice that the recommendation is not mandatory.”
Now, however, Hutchinson has asked state lawmakers to amend the ban so that school districts have the opportunity to mandate face masks if they choose. He wrote in a proclamation calling the state Legislature into a special session that the Delta variant “has infected a higher rate of school-aged children and it is more contagious than previous variants of the virus.”
“There is an urgent need to enact exceptions to Act 1002 of 2021 so that public school boards have the flexibility necessary to utilize masks to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in schools,” the proclamation said.
The state House adjourned on Wednesday without amending the mandate, but is set to reconvene Thursday morning.
“We’re seeing a real surge with the Delta variant that we did not see previously,” Dr. Rick Barr, chief clinical officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, told CNN last month. “This is the worst that we’ve seen it for kids, absolutely.”
CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn and Devan Cole contributed to this report.