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What the mask mandate appeal could mean for public transit in Arkansas

Public transit sites in Arkansas said that they're prepared to pivot after an appeal was filed to reinstate the federal mask mandate that was lifted.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When it comes to wearing a face mask, it's currently kind of a mixed bag at Little Rock's Rock Region Metro pickup site downtown.

For Becca Green, Director of Public Engagement, this isn't much of a surprise.

"We were expecting to hear from all sides because everybody has a different comfort level when it comes to risk tolerance right now," she said. "So, that's to be expected."

Rock Region Metro was quick to lift their own mandate after the federal travel mandate was struck down Monday night. 

Green said that they lifted the mandate to avoid any confusion between their own mandate and the federal requirement.

Unfortunately, the federal requirement has become a bit more complicated – the CDC has asked the justice department to file an appeal and restore the mandate.

Green said Tuesday that they would reconsider their plans if things were to change.

"If the federal administration put the mask mandate back in place, those two things would definitely cause us to convene and try to make some decisions," Green said.

That could also happen if COVID cases were to rise. Our cases Friday were significantly lower than earlier this year, with 1,220 total active cases reported in the Natural State.

The variant of COVID is raising some concern though– it's BA.2, which is more contagious.

"Those subvariants are even more infectious than the original omicron variant, which is hard to imagine, but it was very infectious itself," Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Chief Medical Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, said.

Dr. Dillaha said no matter what happens in court, in some cases, masking up just makes sense.

"In certain situations, they may wish to go ahead and wear a mask to protect themselves," she said. "Or to protect a loved one at home who's at increased risk for severe illness."

In the meantime, Green said they're not changing anything right now but they're prepared to pivot if needed.

"Should that change and should the mask mandate be reinstated, of course we would reassess what we're doing," she said.