A CLOSER LOOK: Arkansas eases COVID-19 restrictions; 10 states do the same

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Eleven states, including Arkansas, relax COVID-19 restrictions, a decision that goes against the Centers for Disease Controls warning.  

I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public-health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the White House COVID-19 Task Force briefing, Monday, 3/1.

Dr. Walensky said the concern is with the level of cases and variants spreading — now is not the time to relax measures that are known to stop the community spread of COVID-19.

STATES EASING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS:

  • Arkansas
  • Texas
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

ARKANSAS

Governor Asa Hutchinson is keeping the mask mandate in place until the end of March as long as positivity rates and/or hospitalizations stay low. He lifted capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms, and large venues. “Effective immediately, all other public health directives that have been issued will be converted to public health guidelines, ” he said. The Natural State’s COVID-19 public health and disaster emergency expires on March 31, 2021, unless it is renewed by a subsequent Executive Order.

TEXAS

Executive Order GA 34 was issued in Texas that would allow businesses to operate at full capacity and eliminate the state’s mask mandate beginning at 12:01 a.m. on March 10.

The reopening announcement came on Tuesday, March 2, and by Wednesday, March 3, the Lone Star State’s governor touted about COVID-19 on Twitter.

  • More than 7 million vaccinations will be given by next week
  • We do about 1 million a week
  • We gave 216,000 shots today alone
  • More than 50% of the seniors will be vaccinated
  • Hospitalizations the positivity rate are lowest in 4 months
  • All Texans know the safe practices

Texas is the country’s second largest state by area and population, according to the census bureau. More than 25.1 million people live in Texas, as of 2010 census data. A July 1, 2020 census estimates an increase of about 4 million people.

MISSISSIPPI

The Magnolia State announced on Tuesday that it will reopen. All county mask mandates have been lifted and businesses can operate at 100% capacity, Governor Tate Reeves announced. A 50% cap will remain in place for indoor arenas and certain school restrictions.

The governor’s Executive Order states in part, “…permitting the continued resumption of all community activities subject to reasonable limitations to minimize person to person interactions and associated risk of transmission of COVID-19 is set to expire at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3, 2021….”

Many on Twitter opposed the decision, stating:

  • “Cases have plummeted BECAUSE of masks.”
  • “Leave it to Mississippi. This is ridiculous. What is the basis?”
  • “Mask(s) are helping to lower the number of cases so why would we lift the mandate. One of the worst decisions you’ve made.”
  • “You should attend every person who dies from covid.”

There were also Twitter comments in favor of the reopening decision, stating:

  • “Thank God for a governor that actually stands up for his citizen’s freedoms.”
  • “Mask mandate was completely unnecessary, to begin with. Businesses ruined for nothing.”
  • “I been going to church no one where [sp] a mask all last year our church close just for a few weeks. Trust God over man.”
  • “People really bought into this mask b-s.”
  • “There’s no mandate saying you still can’t wear a mask in public, or that you even have to go out into public.”

LOUISIANA

Louisiana has eased COVID-19 restrictions beginning Wednesday, March 3. Governor John Bel Edwards announced businesses could operate at 75% capacity, and indoor events are limited to 50% capacity and a maximum of 250 people. Gov. Edwards made the decision based on six weeks of lower COVID-19 case counts and a decrease in hospitalizations. A statewide mask mandate remains in effect.

MICHIGAN

On Friday, March 5, Governor Gretchen Whitmer will allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity, from 25%. Nursing home visits may resume providing the visitor tests negative for the virus. Its mask-mandate will stay in place.

NORTH CAROLINA

There is a mask-mandate in place, but eased restrictions began February 26 in the Tar Heel State. Governor Roy Cooper lifted the curfew and indoor venues are allowed to operate at limited capacity.

MASSACHUSETTS

On Monday, March 1, restaurants opened at full capacity, but social distancing, table size, and time restrictions stayed in place, Governor Charlie Baker announced on February 25. Residents must continue to wear masks. Baker said encouraging data trends in public health and vigilance by residents allowed for relaxed restrictions.

ILLINOIS

Restaurants, bars, and events can operate at 50% capacity, up 10%, in Chicago beginning Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

PENNSYLVANIA

Governor Tom Wolf lifted out-of-state travel restrictions. Indoor events may operate at 15% capacity and outdoor events are at a 20% limit. In a press release, Gov. Wolf said the revised and lifted mitigation restrictions take effect Monday, March 1.

VIRGINIA

A three-time amended Executive Order (72) easing COVID-19 restrictions was signed by Governor Ralph Northam in late February 2021. The EO became effective at midnight on Monday, March 1.

  • Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 25 people for outdoor settings while remaining at 10 persons for indoor settings.
  • Entertainment venues: Outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate with up to 1,000 individuals or at 30 percent capacity, whichever is lower. If current trends continue, these venues may be able to operate at 30 percent capacity with no cap on the number of people permitted to attend starting in April. Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people. All entertainment venues were previously limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
  • Dining establishments: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol will be permitted until midnight, extended from 10:00 p.m. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms still must be closed between midnight and 5:00 a.m. 
  • Overnight summer camps: As of May 1, overnight summer camps will be able to open with strict mitigation measures in place. Registration can begin now.

WYOMING

Due to a decrease in COVID-19 cases, the state eased restrictions beginning March 1. However, a mask-mandate remains in place for the entire state. Governor Mark Gordon made the announcement on February 25, 2021. “If we continue on our current trajectory, I expect us to be able to continue to remove orders as we safely return to a new normal,” Gov. Gordon wrote in a statement. Read here for a full list of public health order changes related to COVID-19.

Getty Images.

Three states never enforced a mask-mandate throughout the pandemic — Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.