LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Legislative Branch finally got a chance to ask questions about the mask mandate that the Governor implemented through executive order, but the conversation quickly became more about the executive branch’s power during this pandemic.
“I think that if we are a citizen did this simple measure we could drive the rates of COVID infection down in our state, ” said Interim Secretary of Health, Dr. Jose Romero.
Dr. Romero advocated for mask wearing and many lawmakers are still unsure of the need.
“I feel like, you know, when we have this on our face, we’re also taking that CO2 back in and we’re not able to do the natural thing that our bodies are allowed to get toxins back out because you’re breathing all that stuff back in,” said Mary Bentley.
“Studies from Stanford have shown that you do not retain CO2 with this mask,” said Dr. Romero.
Representative Frederick Love says the arguing over the mandate with Dr. Romero was pointless.
“If we went from 1,000 cases a day to having 150 cases a day and they’re saying we still need to mandate masks but we’re going in the opposite direction,” said Love.
The discussion eventually did pivot to how much power the Governor has during a state of emergency. Once that has been active in Arkansas since March 11.
“It’s not just masks, it’s ‘when does this end?’, and at what point do we subjectively decided we are no longer in an emergency?” said St. Representative Jana Della Rosa.
Dr. Romero says “the simple answer is we can’t give you any endpoints because the disease is still in evolution.”
Many legislators voicing their frustration about how the executive branch handled the mask mandate.
“Would you advocate, yes or no, for the legislation to be called intercession if we put this into forcible law rather than through this back door executive order, would you advocate that to the Governor’s office and in public?” said St. Senator Trent Garner.
“I think that I can’t say that I would or I wouldn’t. I would have to look at the individual situation,” said Dr. Romero.
“That’s a good politician answer,” said Sen. Garner.
Also when asked if the executive branch can extend the State of Emergency in the state indefinitely the Department of Health simply said they would defend their authority thus far.