Arkansas GOP governor backtracks on school mask mandate ban -- and admits original law was a mistake
Governor Asa Hutchinson (Screen Grab)

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year signed a bill that banned schools from enacting mask mandates for students and faculty -- and now he admits this was a mistake.

Local news station KATV reports that Hutchinson on Tuesday called for a special session to change his state's mask mandate ban to give school districts more flexibility to put public health measures in place.

During a press briefing, Hutchinson told reporters that he's grown concerned about the health of children who aren't yet old enough to get vaccinated.

"We understand the value of classroom instruction and we want those children to be as safe as possible," he said.

According to Newsweek, Hutchinson also expressed regret for signing the blanket mask mandate ban into law in the first place, although he noted at the time he signed it that cases in the state were very low.

"I knew that it would be overridden by the legislature if I didn't sign it," he explained. "I had already eliminated our statewide mask mandate."

Now, however, Hutchinson says he wishes the mandate "had not become law."

According to data compiled by the New York Times, Arkansas has seen COVID infections surge by 74 percent over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have grown by 55 percent over that same period.

Arkansas is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with an estimated 37 percent of residents fully vaccinated.