The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday adopted a resolution to extend the city's local covid-19 emergency declaration for four more months, through Dec. 29.
The city has been operating under a series of emergency declarations because of the covid-19 pandemic since the spring of last year. The most recent declaration issued in April was to expire at the end of August.
On Aug. 5, citing the surge in covid-19 cases arising from the delta variant, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. issued a renewed mask mandate for city-owned or city-operated facilities. Private-property owners were encouraged to do the same.
Scott had ended an earlier iteration of the face-covering mandate in May because of U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance pertaining to when masks ought to be worn by fully vaccinated individuals.
A decision this week by the city board not to extend the declaration of local disaster emergency for 120 more days would have undercut Scott's mask mandate.
A 2021 state law that bars most government entities from issuing mask mandates was put on hold by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox last month one day after Scott issued the new mask mandate.
During the brief special meeting called Tuesday afternoon to consider the extension of the state of emergency, Scott and Vice Mayor Lance Hines butted heads.
Hines, who represents Ward 5, raised questions about how the emergency declaration would be extended and asked why the city's resolution would extend beyond the end of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's statewide emergency order.
Hutchinson on July 29 announced that he would reinstate Arkansas' public health emergency. The emergency is to expire in late September absent action to renew it.
According to the text of the city's resolution, the emergency declaration will get city board review approximately every 30 days on the following dates: Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 28.
The discussion of the potential repeal of the resolution will take place at special meetings of the city board, the resolution states, and those tentative dates can be changed as needed.
Additionally, Hines on Tuesday criticized the routine use of special called meetings, arguing that "no one in the general public really has had any input on this."
Hines requested a roll call after a voice vote.
The vote to extend the emergency declaration was 7-2 with one absence. Hines and City Director Doris Wright of Ward 6 voted against the extension.
City Directors Antwan Phillips, Capi Peck, Joan Adcock, Kathy Webb, Ken Richardson, B.J. Wyrick and Dean Kumpuris voted in favor of the resolution. City Director Erma Hendrix of Ward 1 was absent.
The language of the resolution approved Tuesday seemed to echo Scott's comments about the emergence of the delta variant from earlier in August when he announced the renewed mask mandate at a news conference.
The introduction to the latest emergency declaration referred to the spread of the delta variant in Arkansas, saying it had "created overwhelming issues for hospitals, health care workers, and the general public" while also citing the strain on intensive care units.