JONESBORO, Ark- Governor Hutchinson’s executive order for a statewide mask mandate goes into effect today.
Citizens will be required to wear a mask at indoor and outside environments.
The mandate comes as the state has over 32,000 COVID cases, with the governor hoping this will help flatten the curve.
“I definitely think it will make a difference,” says St. Bernards Medical Center Dr. Kasey Holder. “We know that there are patients’ number one that never have symptoms, but they are infectious, and they can spread infection unknowingly. There are also patients you know there’s a period of time before their symptoms present that they’re infectious. They can spread infection during that time period.”
Gov. Hutchinson made the announcement last Thursday, but St. Bernards has required mask wearing in their medical center since March.
The mandate will require a mask be worn when one isn’t around household members and if social distancing isn’t possible.
Dr. Holder says one must wear them correctly over their nose and mouth as well as social distancing.
“So, you’ve got to cover your nose, you’ve got to cover your chin,” says Dr. Holder. “You still need to adhere to physical distancing. So the mask is not in lieu of physical distancing, it’s an addition to.”
There are exceptions, children under 10 will not be required to wear one neither will individuals with a medical condition.
Dr. Holder says those with a medical condition could be one with advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.
She says another example would be someone who relies on oxygen assistance.
People taking part in sporting events or practice are not required to wear one as well as people eating and drinking.
A warning will be given to one who doesn’t comply, secondly a fine from $100 to $500 dollars.
No arrests can take place if one violates the order.
Dr holder says this could help alleviate hospitals.
“For fall some are saying 20,000 new cases per day at the end of September and that’s very alarming. The predictions also say if we can be very compliant with masking it could drop down to 6,000 cases per day. The people that do need care in our hospitals our facilities and health care workers are able to provide the best possible care.”
Regarding if law enforcement agencies will enforce the mandate, both the Craighead and Poinsett County Sheriff’s Departments say they will only respond to calls by business owners.
If an owner calls and says a customer will not comply with the mandate or leave, they could then be charged with trespassing.
Both departments say they don’t have the manpower to respond to all calls regarding the mandate from citizens.
The Trumann Police Department Chief Chad Henson says they hope to provide education first and issue a citation as the last resort.
Public Information Officer Sally Smith with the Jonesboro Police Department says JPD will respond to calls regarding the mandate.