Arkansas governor issues statewide mask mandate

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) issued an order Thursday making his state the latest to mandate that residents wear face masks in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The mandate will go into effect Monday and comes just a day after retail giant Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Ark., announced mandatory facial coverings for shoppers at all of its stores nationwide. 

Hutchinson had previously questioned how a mask mandate would function in a rural state, saying in May that it was necessary for individuals to "manage the risk" of infection. 

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"We take the virus very seriously," he said at the time. "It's a risk, it causes death, but you can't cloister yourself at home, that is just contrary to the American spirit."

Other states that joined the growing list of those requiring masks in public this week include Colorado and Alabama. The list already included many of states that have seen coronavirus spikes this month, such as Texas, California and North Carolina.

Previously, Hutchinson encouraged local municipalities to enforce their own ordinances and pandemic protocols but shifted his stance as Arkansas continues to report increasing case numbers.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, a total of 29,248 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state, with 335 fatalities and 22,851 recoveries.

The state is one of the few that never issued mandatory stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus.