Governor Hutchinson Extends Public Health Emergency Until March 31

Governor Hutchinson announced this morning that the public health emergency that was set to end today, will be extended for 30 more days, ending on March 31, 2021.

“The reason we are making this announcement today on the continuation emergency is that it is necessary because we need to still have these items in place, but we have also made progress.”

The exception is the mask mandate, which will stay in place until March 31 if certain public health goals are maintained.

Mask Mandate Renewal Evaluation:
1. A value above 10% combined PCR and antigen positivity rate (7 day rolling average) with at least 7500 specimens tested on average daily would be actionable.
2. If testing is below 7500 average specimen daily, then the number of hospitalized patients would serve as the indicator for action. Fewer than 750 patients hospitalized state-wide for COVID-19 would be the trigger.

“We are moving from Directives to Guidance. Examples of where this would make a difference is restaurants, gyms, and salons. Indoor and outdoor venues will be subject to the same guidance that we have had in the form of directives but it will be guidance,” Hutchinson said.

Directive vs. Guidance:
A Directive is based on scientific data and a rational basis, and is a mandate, like an order with a potential penalty after due process.

A Guidance, based on scientific data, is a strong recommendation based on medical advice.

Hutchinson went on to say, “The public needs to understand how we move out of this pandemic and into a more normal life. We are outlining how we get there, we don’t get there immediately but we get there through following Guidelines and we get there through seeing the cases go down and continuing to be careful about behavior.”

We will still need to wear our mask, maintain social distance and wash our hands.

Impact on School Districts:

  • Most districts have adopted local board policies to require the mask mandate and social distancing. This can remain in place at the direction of the local boards.
  • The guidance on capacity and social distancing will allow for proms, athletic events, graduation, and other extracurricular events to be held. It will negate the assurance documents districts filed with AAA and ADH.
  • Quarantine guidance will not change.
  • Identification of close contacts will stay in place.

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