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  • Sara Doan

Statewide mask mandate set to expire on March 31st

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, Ark- During his weekly Coronavirus press conference, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the statewide mask mandate will likely end on March 31st.

Businesses can still require customers to wear masks inside their store or restaurant even after the mandate expires on March 31st. But will they?

KJNB Northeast Arkansas News spoke with businesses in Craighead County to hear if they plan to require customers to mask up.

“As far for sales associates, they are required to wear them on the floor as long as the mask mandate is in place,” says Sarah Hunt, marketing director for Gamble Home Furniture. “But, as far as customers go, we’ve always given them the option, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that. It’ll just be more lenient now if the mask mandate is, lifted on the [March] 31st.”

Gamble is not alone in their decision.

Gearhead Outfitters owner Ted Herget says the company will not require customers to wear masks inside their stores once the statewide mandate ends.

“Whatever [Gov.] Asa’s [Hutchinson] team tells what’s is in the best interest of our customers and our employees’ man we’re going to follow it,” says Herget. “If they feel that it is time to lift the mask [mandate], we will follow that. We will not mandate them in our stores, absolutely not.”

Gov. Hutchinson said in early March that if Arkansas meets certain goals, the mandate will expire.

Including a positivity rate below 10% with 7,500 Covid tests done daily; or if the state does not meet the testing goal, Covid-19 related hospitalizations must drop below 750 statewide the mandate would end.

“We are far below that criteria, so everyone can expect on March 31st for that mask mandate to be lifted,” says Gov. Hutchinson.

Hunt says their customers enjoy that Gambles does not have a mask requirement.

“I expected it to be of, course, the people that did not want to wear a mask, be happy with the option to not wear their mask while they’re shopping with us,” according to Hunt. “But we’re seeing it from both sides and, that is really refreshing.”

Not requiring a mask isn’t for every business.

Sues Kitchen says they will still require customers to wear masks once the statewide mandate expires.

Several other restaurants say they will make their decision after the governor makes his final decision next week.


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