Mandated masks will not be enforced for Scranton and Paris

Miranda Holman
Paris Express

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed an executive order that allows cities to mandate masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order provides a consistent approach for cities to slow the virus's spread, the governor said in a news conference. However, according to General Counsel for the Municipal League, John Wilkerson included no enforcement measures in the order.

Hutchinson said during the press conference that 82% of Arkansans said they are already wearing PPE in public, according to a recent survey conducted by the state.

For residents in Scranton and Paris, mandated mask wear will not be enforced. Scranton Mayor David Corbitt said that Scranton does not require residents to wear face masks, but Corbitt was quick to add that he does support anyone's decision to wear masks.

"I also encourage everyone to help battle this virus by following the Governor's and the Arkansas Health Department's guidelines to stay safe, such as frequent washing of hands, social distancing and self-isolation if necessary."

Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers said that he has looked into the governor's ordinance and has let the council members know what the ordinance entailed.

"I let them know that it is now a local option and that they may be getting contacted by residents about the matter. I let them know an ordinance would have to be adopted by the city council and that it was not an executive decision a mayor can make in a city."

Rogers said he has talked to mayors of cities of similar size to Paris, discussed and listened to what they had to say about what they are hearing.

"I believe mask-wearing has become political, which seems silly, but what doesn't seem silly or political these days. I believe most big cities will pass a mandate and most all smaller cities will not."

Rogers stated that he has heard arguments by both sides and believes the majority of residents do not want to be mandated to wear a mask.

"It's just the feeling I get from listening to folks and I don't believe the council will pass a mandatory mask ordinance."

Rogers did agree that he believes the number of cases will go up locally and with the health department doing a drive-thru testing later this month, figures will show more cases than it appears.

"I do encourage people to wear a mask; I didn't do so much at first but feel like it's the neighborly thing to do anymore and like most people, I just want to do my part to stop the spread so we can have a normal life again."

According to Rogers, he feels some of the employees in local businesses in town that deal with the public constantly would feel more at ease if residents all did their part and wore masks.

"If an ordinance was ever adopted locally, there is also no enforcement provision so people wouldn't be fined if they weren't wearing a mask, but again at this point, I believe an overwhelming majority of the public do not want a mask ordinance in place and I do not feel like the city council will adopt one."

As of Monday, Logan County had 81 total positive cases, 32 active cases, 49 recovered cases, 2,261 negative tests and zero deaths. The state of Arkansas virus numbers were 28,367 positive cases, 6,455 active cases, 21,591 recovered cases and 321 deaths.

"I would like to add that this shouldn't be a local decision," said Rogers, "the Governor should have decided one way or the other concerning masks."

Rogers said that Gov. Hutchinson has experts in the health department to guide him on what is safest for the state's citizens.

"Those experts have all the data on testing across the state and hospital data to know when our hospitals are being overrun with COVID patients. We don't have that data, we are small-town elected officials and he drops the most politically divisive issue in our laps."

Rogers also stated that the public wouldn't know what cities they have to wear them in and which ones they don't when traveling.

Fayetteville and Little Rock have both adopted the mandated mask requirements, while Ft. Smith has voted against mandated mask use.