Asa Hutchinson Says He Will Encourage, Not Require, Masks

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LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that he will encourage people to wear face masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus but indicated that he doesn’t plan to enact a statewide requirement. 

“We’re not going to pass a mandate that is unenforceable,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” while adding that residents will be educated about the importance of face coverings to protect others.

“We’re encouraging mask wearing. I’ve set the example for that,” said Hutchinson, who has previously worn a mask in public.

His comments came as Arkansas has seen an uptick in the number of confirmed cases of the virus that causes COVID-19. The cities of Little Rock and Fayetteville have imposed mandates that face masks be worn in most public settings.

Hutchinson also said there are no plans to roll back the state’s reopening that began in May, although he will not currently further ease restrictions.

The state health department on Sunday said there are at least 19,818 confirmed cases of the virus and 264 deaths, an increase of 508 cases and five deaths that were reported Saturday. 

The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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