Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday that he will extend the state's emergency declaration for one more month, ending Arkansas' mask mandate on March 31st if vaccination goals are met. Gov. Hutchinson went on to say the state's COVID-19 directives will then be considered "guidance" and will not carry penalties for businesses or individuals.
The mandate will be lifted if the state continues to test 7,500 people per day with a combined positivity rate of less than 10 percent. If those goals are not met, Gov. Hutchinson would then consider extending the mandate.
"You can't keep directives in place forever," he said. "This gives us a safe path to move forward following the guidelines. And if a business believes that they can keep their customers safe and their employees safe and they want to tweak it... then there's more flexibility." -KATV
Cases have been on the rise this past week, as testing centers saw an influx of people after last week's winter storm. Active cases (+44) and hospitalizations (+26) were up Thursday, however both indicators had been decreasing in recent weeks. -Fayetteville Flyer
On Thursday, the Arkansas Legislature voted to refund state fines for businesses that violated public health guidelines. Businesses are now incentivized to follow the recommendations for liability protection.