Gov. Sarah Sanders solidified her stance against COVID-19 health mandates on Friday. Sanders announced the Arkansas Department of Health should now publicize potential risks related to COVID-19 vaccines so “all Arkansans can make informed decisions about their health.” Public entities in Arkansas would also be banned from mandating vaccines for state employees, if the state legislature approves it this week during a special session.
“We have to be sure that [the] government never again tramples on our liberty like it did during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sanders said.
Sanders almost immediately declared Arkansans would move on from the pandemic when she took office in January, appealing several orders from former Gov. Asa Hutchinson that established minimal protections. Sanders also recently vowed to keep mask and vaccine mandates out of Arkansas as long as she was in charge, despite an uptick in illnesses.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported a spike in positive COVID-19 cases in August with 9,475 illnesses, the second highest monthly case count of 2023 behind January. More than 2,000 cases have already been reported in September — a count higher than the total reported illnesses in June and July, independently.
Tracking COVID-19 cases today is much different than when the pandemic was at full force a few years ago. The health department provides weekly updates and details cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Since at-home tests became a common tool, the actual number of illnesses have been skewed, which has left experts to turn to hospitalization numbers as a more accurate gauge. In the last seven days, 62 patients have been seen at Arkansas hospitals for COVID-19.