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Trial on Arkansas mask-mandate ban wraps up with no immediate ruling

2021-11-22-Jose_Romero-KATV.jpg
Shelby Rose
/
KATV News
Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. José Romero was called to testify Monday by attorneys for the Marion and Little Rock school districts who are challenging the law passed earlier this year by the legislature which bans mask mandates.

An Arkansas judge is considering whether to strike down a state law he’s temporarily blocked that bans mask mandates by schools and other governmental entities.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox heard arguments Monday over the law, which has been on hold since August when Fox issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the mask ban.

On Monday, state health officials said that schools that did not require masks had a 25% higher rate of virus transmission than schools that did, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Fox did not issue a ruling Monday and set a Dec. 10 deadline for both sides to submit final written arguments.

In August, Fox ruled the law violates Arkansas’ constitution, saying it discriminates between public and private school students. He said it also infringes on the governor’s emergency powers, as well as the authority of county officials and the state Supreme Court.

More than 100 school districts and public charter schools approved mask mandates following Fox’s order, though many lifted or relaxed them as the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases decreased.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the ban into law in April, but he has since said he regretted that decision and agreed with Fox’s ruling against it.