GOP governors ignore Biden's latest plea on mask mandates

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President Joe Biden speaks during an event on COVID-19 vaccinations and response, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden's pleas for states to stick with mask mandates to slow the spread of the coronavirus were being largely ignored Tuesday as several Republican governors stayed on track to drop the requirement in their states.

Biden and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a day earlier that this is no time to relax safety measures.

In a call with governors on Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky buttressed that message by citing "concerning” national trends: The seven-day average of 61,000 new COVID-19 cases per day is up 13%, and the seven-day average of deaths is up 6%.

But Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison announced Tuesday he is dropping the state’s mask mandate immediately, a day earlier than previously announced.

“We made our decision in Arkansas based upon the criteria we set,” said the Republican, who last month set targets for test positivity and hospitalizations in order for the state’s requirement to expire. “This is a goal we had. We achieved that, so we stuck with the principle that was outlined.”

The number of new reported cases in Arkansas was 79 on Monday, according to the CDC, part of a downward trend.

On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan has seen a steep rise in cases. That prompted Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to ask whether the White House has considered surging additional vaccines to states with rapidly increasing infection rates.

Jeffrey Zeints, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, replied that officials are “thinking through how to address hot spots.” He promised to do everything to support Michigan in its “difficult situation.”