Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Sunday admitted he was wrong to have signed a bill against mask mandates.
In an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Hutchinson said he’s seen that “facts change and leaders have to adjust to the new facts.”
“Whenever I signed that law [COVID-19] cases were low,” he said. “We were hoping that the whole thing was gone in terms of the virus, but it roared back with the delta variant.”
“I realized that we needed to have more options for our local school districts to protect those children,” Hutchinson said. “And so I asked the legislature to redo the law that prohibited those requirements or those options for the school districts to protect the children. … it was an error to sign that law. I admit that.”
He added, “Now we have that local flexibility for schools to make their decision to protect the children based upon the unique circumstances of their district.”
According to Hutchinson, the need for a mask mandate was best illustrated in the Marion County school district where 900 students and teachers are now in quarantine.
“If we’re going to have a successful school year, school districts like Marion need to have that option to require masks for those lower grades or make the decision that’s suitable for their community,” he said, noting “vaccines, as well as flexibility of the local school district would be the key” to a safe school year.
Yet, Hutchinson declared “I don’t support a vaccine mandate.”
“We can do it through education, but I do expect that broader acceptance of the vaccine — I do expect that some employers in sensitive industries will require vaccines,” he said.
“But you have to have the FDA approval before that is more broadly accepted.”
Hutchinson praised the increased vaccination rate in his state, with 60% now having gotten at least one shot against COVID-19.
But he said the Food and Drug Administration has to act faster on approval.
“We want to continue to mount that campaign to engage our local communities. Hopefully we can be successful and continue that, increase our vaccination rate. That’s the only way out of it,” he said of the pandemic.
“It’s not what the government says, and I recognize that’s not going to be the answer that is needed or is persuasive. But I will call on a local physician that they know that they trust in their community and ask, ‘what do you say about that?’ And that trusted adviser is more persuasive and fact oriented and helps to dispel the myths.”
“The second thing that’s important is the FDA has to act,” he continued. “We’ve had well-over 100 million Americans that are vaccinated. They’re not going to come in now and say, ‘well, that shouldn’t have been approved.’”
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