Governor Asa Hutchinson Ends Masks Mandate…but is it too soon?

Governor Asa Hutchinson Ends Masks Mandate...but is it too soon?

Grayce Nelson, Opinion Reporter

Masks or no masks? Can a person really be trusted to wear a mask if it’s not mandated? Will the number of cases increase if this goes into effect? These are all questions being pondered, as Arkansas’ statewide mask mandate could end after March 31, 2021. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on February 26th that he will be lifting the mask mandate if Covid-19 numbers continue to decrease, and the positive rate remains below 10% with at least 7,500 daily tests average. Cases have been going down and more people have been getting vaccinated.  


Almost a year ago, on March 11, 2020, Arkansas announced that the first Covid-19 case was found in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, forcing us to all remain inside. Since then, life as we knew it was no longer the same. All businesses from school, churches, gyms, restaurants, and so many other places that we visit daily were all shut down. The world was at a complete halt and appeared as a ghost town. 


Now a year later, Hutchinson extended the Public Health Emergency Declaration, which was put into place to promote, protect, and improve the health of individuals and communities, on February 27, 2021 for another 30 days which is planned to expire on March 31, 2021. Recently, several vaccines have been introduced nationwide to help prevent the spread of the virus. With so many citizens being vaccinated, the testing has decreased giving the assumption that the spreading of the virus has slowed down.


Hutchinson still encourages people to wear a mask if social distancing isn’t possible and he will continue to wear his mask. In a press conference, he stated, “The public knows exactly what is needed to stop the spread of the virus. They know where they can go safely, where they can’t go safely and they can make those judgements.” A couple of days later he also stated that, “We want an off-ramp, we didn’t want a cliff.” essentially meaning we need to ease into this change slowly. 

When the mandate is over, businesses can enforce their own Covid-19 safety guidelines, such as adjusting their capacity limits. This may or may not be good for businesses that have been financially struggling this past year, like many restaurants that don’t have a lot of service anymore. This might make people feel less safe when coming outside or eating in a restaurant. More people might stay home. I personally don’t think this is good for the public. For instance, many people are not getting tested anymore, they’re getting vaccines— so of course the positivity rates are going down. We do not know yet if the vaccine is working effectively and the Arkansas Department of Health stated, “New variants of the coronavirus that spread more easily could lead to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.” With more strains occurring the vaccine might not know how to fight them off.  I strongly believe that it is too early to get rid of the mask mandate. Even if the vaccines do work, a lot of people don’t plan on taking them anyway. When people stop wearing masks, I believe the spread of the virus will increase, and we will be stepping back instead of stepping forward. We need to wait and see if the vaccine is working before changing the mandate, and if the vaccine will protect citizens from the new strains.