Statewide mask mandate begins Monday in Arkansas
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Starting on Monday, July 20 people in Arkansas will be required to wear masks in public. This comes after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an executive order mandating masks on Thursday, July 16.
Arkansas will now join at least 25 other states requiring people to wear face coverings.
The statewide mandate requires people 11 years and older to wear a mask both inside and outside when they cannot social distance of at least six feet apart.
Just last month, Gov. Hutchinson said he was against a statewide mask mandate, but changed his mind after speaking with front-line workers, who say they need more help from the public in controlling COVID-19, which has now topped 33,000 cases in Arkansas.
People with certain health issues will be exempt from wearing face coverings. People can also remove face coverings while eating, drinking, exercising or doing work that is physically impossible while wearing one.
First-time offenders will be issued a warning, while repeat offenses can lead to fines anywhere between $100 and $500. You can be charged with a misdemeanor, but cannot be arrested or thrown in jail for violating the order.
Governor Hutchinson said in a news conference on Thursday that he believes the order is one of the best ways to unite the public against the virus.
“This whole fight against COVID-19 is likely to get harder and not easier,” Hutchinson said. “And we have to meet the challenge together. And everyone must do their part and this is the way.”
But the reaction to the mandate is mixed.
“While I believe in masks themselves, like the science behind them, and why people choose to wear them, I don’t feel like it is the government’s place to mandate them,” Arkansas resident Champ Smith said. “I feel like individual liberties are really important. And I feel like businesses could regulate themselves.”
Smith said he feels like it would be best left to businesses to enforce their own policies.
“If you go into a business that requires masks,” he said. “It is their right to put that into place and require to enter that. It also should be your right if you do not want to put a mask on. Then you have a right to not shop at that store.”
Smith also said he has a few concerns about the mandate being enforced.
“So I think the mandate, it brings resources out of police departments,” he said.
Hutchinson said that enforcing the mandate will be up to local governments based on their priorities.
“That is a prerogative of the sheriff, it is the prerogative of the local police department to set their priorities,” he said.
Hutchinson also said if children at schools are going to be wearing masks in order to keep others safe, the entire public should do just the same.
“Then the adults must help them to get ready and set the right example for them,” he said.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told KY3 he does not plan on mandating masks in his state.
“At this point, from a statewide perspective, our state is so diverse I do not see we would have a statewide mandate at all,” Parson said.
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