Despite all this, some GOP individuals persist in their efforts to downplay the coronavirus pandemic, including former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders, who is running for governor of Arkansas, vowed Friday that should she be elected in 2022 she would not impose any mask mandate or vaccine requirements.
“If I’m elected governor here in Arkansas, we will not have mask mandates,” Sanders said during an interview on Fox & Friends. “We will not have mandates on the vaccine, we will not shut down churches and schools and other large gatherings, because we believe in personal freedom and responsibility,” she added . “It’s one of the key cornerstones, frankly, of our country.”
Her promise came in response to discussions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may consider updating mask guidances amid new surges of COVID-19 cases nationwide and a day after Democratic state lawmakers addressed their concern about the state’s current mask ban.
Despite Arkansas reporting the highest number of cases across the country, Republicans like Sanders are continuing to irresponsibly discourage mask-wearing and getting the vaccine. Instead of encouraging individuals to get the vaccine for their safety, many Republicans are instead claiming that credit to Donald Trump must be given for the vaccine in order for many of his supporters to take it.
While a mask mandate was in place last year when the state also had a rise in cases, a ban was placed on requiring schools and government entities to require people to wear masks in April, a month after the state’s mask mandate was lifted. A move Democrats are now urging the Republican-majority legislature to take action on.
“Our frontline workers are re-living long, difficult hours of doing whatever it takes to care for COVID-stricken patients as hospitals are at or very nearly at capacity,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to the governor and Republican legislative leaders.
According to CNN, health care workers have not only been harassed by COVID-19 deniers but even threatened in their place of employment. “It’s extremely difficult to watch so many people die, and then have people tell you on Facebook or in Walmart that you’re a liar,” Sunny, a nurse who did not want to use her real name, told CNN. She added that sometimes the harassment came from the loved ones of patients she was taking care of.
“We had people accuse us of giving their loved one something else so that they would die and we could report it as Covid. We heard it more than once that we were fudging the numbers, or we were killing people on purpose to make Covid look like it was worse than it was, or to make it look real when it wasn’t,” she said.
Anti-vaxxers told CNN that they believed being vaccinated was a “freedom issue” and that they did not want to be a “guinea pig” to the vaccine.
The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed not only two child deaths Thursday, but 1,869 new cases of the virus. Thursday is the second day of this week the state topped its average of 1,800 new COVID-19 cases. As a result, active cases increased from 876 to 12,779, KATV reported. The average number of daily cases in Arkansas has increased by 121% over the past two weeks, figured compiled by John Hopkins University found.
According to the Associated Press, while he did not mention reissuing a mask mandate, Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a statement on getting vaccination as a tool to combat the delta variant.
“The Delta Variant alarm bells are creating a greater sense of urgency to get vaccinated,” Hutchinson tweeted. He encouraged residents to get vaccinated “for the safety of our children and families.”