Arkansas court to hear lawmakers’ challenge to virus limits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear arguments in a lawsuit by a group of legislators challenging the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Justices granted the request for oral arguments in the case but did not immediately schedule the hearing. A Pulaski County judge last year dismissed the lawsuit, and the legislators appealed to the Supreme Court.

The case is moving forward a week after Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted most of the state’s virus restrictions but left the state’s mask mandate in place through at least the end of March.

It also comes after the Senate passed a measure expanding the Legislature’s ability to terminate a disaster declaration during a public health emergency. The lawsuit argues that the restrictions put in place during the pandemic required legislative approval.

The Department of Health reported 570 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total since the pandemic began to 324,326. The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 continued to fall, dropping by 13 to 359. COVID-19 deaths increased by 10 to 5,283.