State senator proposes pulling per diem for legislators who don’t mask up

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Many Republican legislators in states where coronavirus cases have surged are rejecting mask-wearing requirements, even in their own capitols.

An Arkansas state senator is proposing that her colleagues risk losing their per diem if they’re caught not wearing their masks. The idea is facing pushback, despite Arkansas having the second biggest outbreak in a state legislature.

“We’re supposed to be modeling for our constituents and for our residents in our state,” said Arkansas state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, a Democrat in the majority-Republican Legislature who proposed the rule. “You’ve got the governor asking everyone to wear a mask and socially distance. It’s not like I’m asking for something nobody has heard of.”

Mississippi, which had the largest, is encouraging but not requiring its members to wear masks. Several others say they’re leaving the decision up to members but not enforcing any rules. That decision is worrying public health experts.

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Arkansas health officials report more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

State health authorities reported 1,030 Arkansas residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 Sunday, 20 more than on Saturday.

The Arkansas Department of Health says the state added 1,221 confirmed and probable cases Sunday. The department says Arkansas has had a total of 156,247 COVID-19 cases and 2,470 fatalities.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say more than 13 percent of coronavirus tests in Arkansas came back positive over the last seven days.


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