Path 27
News

As Coronavirus Cases Surge, Arkansas Gov Mandates Citizens Wear Face Masks

Path 27

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an order Thursday requiring people to wear face masks in public throughout the state, which has had a surge in coronavirus cases over the past several weeks.

The Republican governor had resisted a statewide mask mandate and opposed issuing a stay-at-home order earlier in the pandemic, but he announced the order requiring masks when social distancing isn’t possible in the hopes of slowing the disease’s rapid spread in the state. The order takes effect Monday.

Hutchinson said the state’s rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths show that more needs to be done to combat the virus’ spread. He also said adults needs to set the right example for the state’s schoolchildren, many of whom will be required to wear masks when in-person classes resume next month.

“This whole fight against COVID-19 is likely to get harder and not easier, and we have to meet the challenge together. Everyone must do their part,” Hutchinson said. “This is a way to enlist the support of everyone in this fight.”

Hutchinson’s decision comes amid growing support for mask requirements from business and health leaders and a day after Bentonville-based Walmart said it would require customers to wear masks in all of its U.S. stores.

Trending:
74,000 Ballots Returned with No Record of Ever Being Sent: Shocking AZ Audit Update

The state’s largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, also called for a statewide requirement on Thursday.

Hutchinson previously encouraged people to wear masks and allowed cities to pass ordinances requiring their use, but he stopped short of requiring them statewide.

He’s the latest Republican governor to relent on the mask issue in the face of a surge in COVID-19 cases. Alabama’s governor issued a similar mask mandate on Wednesday.

Arkansas’ coronavirus cases have dramatically risen since May, when the state began allowing businesses that had closed because of the pandemic to reopen despite warnings from federal health officials about the risks of doing so too soon.

Do you think wearing a face mask should be optional?

Arkansas was one of a handful of states that did not issue a broad stay-at-home order to keep most businesses closed.

Hutchinson announced the order as the state reported one of its biggest single-day increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Health Department on Thursday added 817 new confirmed cases to the state’s overall tally 31,114 since the pandemic started.

It also raised the state’s death toll by six, to 341, and added 12 more patients to the number of people currently hospitalized with the disease, for a total of 470.

The order includes several exemptions, including people younger than 10 years old or those engaged in religious worship, despite worship services being identified as sources of outbreaks in Arkansas and elsewhere. Violators could face a fine of up to $500.

The order prohibits law enforcement from detaining or arresting anyone for not complying, and says first-time violators will only receive a verbal or written warning.

Related:
Super Bowl Champion and Military Veteran Announces He's Running for Senate

The order also allows the state to exempt counties that the Health Department has certified as having a low risk of transmission. Hutchinson said that would be defined as counties that have had no positive cases for 28 days and have adequate testing capability.

It was unclear whether any counties currently could be exempted under that provision.

Hutchinson previously questioned how a mask mandate could be enforced in a rural state such as Arkansas, but this week he left open the possibility of such a requirement. The chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences called for a statewide requirement last weekend.

“This is the right decision and will flatten the curve and save lives in Arkansas as we fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson tweeted moments after Hutchinson’s announcement.

Hutchinson’s order was expected to face criticism from some conservatives in the solidly Republican state. Hours before he issued the order, a Republican legislator who said he expected the mandate from Hutchinson called it an overreach by the state.

“It’s not a question of whether you want to wear a mask or not. The question is whether you want a state so powerful that it can mandate you wearing a mask,” state Sen. Bob Ballinger said in a video posted on Facebook.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



loading

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
, , ,
Path 27
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




loading

Conversation