Common Ground Arkansas posts a video of Independent Sen. Jim Hendren interviewing Rep. Lee Johnson, a Republican state representative from Greenwood who is also an emergency room doctor.

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Johnson stuck to the party line over the past year or so, even voting with Republicans to ban schools, counties and municipalities from being allowed to institute mask requirements to protect people from COVID-19. The law handcuffed schools from following medical advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading experts, literally putting the lives of Arkansas children at risk.

In the video, however, Johnson said his views have changed in light of new information. The doctor legislator said the COVID-19 situation looks much different in Arkansas today than it did this past winter. The patients seeking care for COVID-19 are younger and sicker than they were in previous surges, he said. The vaccine now has a proven track record of being safe and effective, and Johnson said he encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

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In the video he addresses rumors that the vaccine could affect fertility, a seemingly common fear among Arkansas parents. Johnson said his colleagues, including those who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, are all vaccinated, and are having their daughters vaccinated as well.

The video is a nice invitation to the vaccine hesitant to come to the other side. And so I hate to nitpick. But at no point in the interview do Hendren and Johnson address the mask issue. That’s a shame. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are clear that masks are needed in our schools (and all other public places) to stave off COVID-19 infections and deaths.

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