Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

University of Arkansas Associated Student Government asks for changes to state mask mandate ban

State News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas’ legislature will meet Wednesday to discuss an amendment to the state’s mask mandate ban. The University of Arkansas’ Associated Student Government publicly asked for the ability to enact a campus mask mandate.

Coleman Warren, the UA Student Body President, said Act 1002, which bans mask mandates in Arkansas, puts the campus community in danger if left unchanged. With rising case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths associated with the COVID-19 Delta variant, Warren said he’s concerned.

“Repeal this act, because we think it should be up to the discretion of the university to make this decision,” Warren said.

Warren said he fears the Delta variant could force classes to go virtual if nothing’s done, something he hopes to avoid.

“I think that the university knows how to pivot to that,” Warren said. “They’re doing whatever they can to avoid it, but I think it’s possible.”

Wednesday, the state legislature’s set to look at Act 1002 in a special session. Legislators will discuss whether to amend the law to allow school districts to enact mask mandates. Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said higher education isn’t included in this.

“They have access to vaccines,” Hutchinson said. “They can make the decision to have a vaccine and protect themselves in that fashion, or they can wear a mask, as well.”

In a statement, UA spokesperson John Thomas said the university supports reviewing the law.

Given the changed circumstances since the spring, including the rapid rise in infections and the emergence of the Delta variant, we commend the Governor and legislative leaders working to address this need for K-12 schools and urge them to consider adding higher education institutions as well. This would help increase the likelihood of a safe, in-person activities while also decreasing the chance of community spread.

John Thomas, UA spokesperson

Warren said he doesn’t expect the legislature to make changes to the law, so he said it’s important to be prepared.

“If Act 1002 doesn’t allow us to require a mask mandate that’d be our best approach, then we’ll find alternatives that’ll allow us to avoid a virtual environment,” Warren said.

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