Governor issues statewide mask mandate

Miranda Holman
Paris Express

One day after the towns of Paris and Scranton confirmed that they would not be enforcing the city mask mandate, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he would issue a statewide mask mandate for Arkansas, effective Monday, July 20.

Hutchinson believes the move is necessary to slow the spread of the virus, with the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations and in light of schools reopening this fall.

"I have listened to the doctors and nurses that are on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19, and they ask the public to do more," Hutchinson said.

Previously Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers had stated that he had heard arguments by both sides and believed the majority of residents in Paris did not want to be mandated to wear a mask.

"It's just the feeling I get from listening to folks."

Now, cities do not have an option and all residents, except for those with medical reasons and children under ten years of age, will be ordered to wear a mask until further notice.

"It appears starting Monday unless certain counties are allowed to be exempt or unless a state exemption applies to someone, that mandatory mask will be law until the current public health emergency is terminated."

The order requires every person in Arkansas to wear a face-covering of the mouth and nose in all indoor and outdoor environments where exposure to non-household members and social distancing cannot be obtained.

"I would like to ask our citizens to obey the state mandate and do their part to comply to assist in bringing this health emergency to an end."

A violation of the executive order is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of between $100-500. Law enforcement and local officials are encouraged to give first-time violators a warning.

No law enforcement officer or local officials may arrest, detain, or jail an individual for violating the mask mandate.

Rogers is asking the community to refrain from calling the Paris Police Department when you see someone who is not complying with the order.

"They [The officers] need to be out doing their normal job duties," said Rogers.

Logan County Sheriff Jason Massey said in a recent Facebook post that the Logan County Sheriff's Office does not have the personnel or the resources to enforce this mandate.

"We will not detain or arrest anyone for not wearing a mask (the Governor's mandate does not allow this anyway, but I want to clarify it) and we will not write a citation for it."

Sheriff Massey added that the Sheriff's Office would respond to businesses that request assistance in removing people who do not follow their rules.

"Businesses have the right to make rules regarding their property. Please do not get confrontational with employees for asking you to wear a mask on their property. If you do not like their rules, you have the freedom to shop somewhere else."

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

In an earlier statement, Rogers said that the mask mandate should not be a local decision and that the Governor should have decided one way or the other concerning masks; now, that is no longer an issue for local officials.

Mayor Rogers would like to thank the community of Paris in advance for complying with the mandate.

As of Monday, Logan County had 103 total positive cases, an increase of 22 more from last Monday. The county currently has 34 active cases, 69 recovered cases, 2,535 negative tests and zero deaths.

On Sunday, July 26, the Department of Health will be setting up a COVID-19 testing site from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. at the Paris City Park. Testing is available for any residents who would like to be tested. Wood Street will be restricted to one-way access during this time from Kalamazoo to Old Airport Rd. The direction of travel will be only for westbound traffic in that area.