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As the delta variant spreads, here's why Arkansas can't enact a new mask mandate

The Arkansas legislature this year passed a new law that bans the state from enacting any new mask mandates but private businesses are still allowed to.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As the state continues to see a surge in new cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant, many are asking if Governor Asa Hutchinson can enact a new mask mandate for Arkansas.

According to a new law, the state is no longer allowed to issue any new mask mandates. The law also bans any local officials from enforcing mask wearing in their cities.

The law, which was passed in April and signed into law by Hutchinson, does not apply to a private business or healthcare facility owned or operated by the state.

Under the law, only the Arkansas legislature "reserves the right to enact legislation regarding the mandatory use of face masks, face shields, or other face coverings."

Hutchinson ended the state mask mandate at the end of March after cases began a continued drop.

The CDC's current guideline on masks is that if you aren't fully vaccinated you should wear a mask indoors. Masks are still required on planes and other forms of public transportation.

But now as the delta variant continues to spike in Arkansas, Hutchinson said the state has a challenge to face.

One month ago, there were under 200 people hospitalized but now that number is at 565 and is expected to grow.

"The good news is the vaccines are effective against the variant," Hutchinson said. But right now, only 35% of the state is vaccinated for COVID-19 which is below the national average of 48%.

According to the Associated Press, Arkansas leads the country in new cases per capita over the last two weeks.