Gov. Asa Hutchinson has instituted a statewide mandate for face coverings.
Starting Monday, July 20, masks will be required for all individuals in Arkansas. Hutchinson said that he will be signing an executive order later today and that it will have the force of law. Arkansas Department of Health Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith will also implement the executive order as a public health directive.
According to Hutchinson, the executive order is a response to the increasing and continued spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.
“The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are numbers that speak for themselves and indicate that we need to do more. Secondly, I have listened to doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines of this fight against COVID-19, and they ask for the public to do more,” he said.
This mandate will require every person in Arkansas to wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in all indoor environment where they are exposed to a “non-household members” and where distancing of six feet or more cannot be guaranteed.
In addition, face coverings are required in outdoor settings where they are exposure to non-household members unless there is more than six feet of distancing.
There will be exemptions for the face covering executive order. Individuals younger than 10 years of age will not be required to wear masks. While consuming food or drink, face coverings will not be required or while driving alone or with household members or when receiving services that require access to the face for security or surveillance.
Masks will be strongly encouraged but will not be required when engaged in religious worship activities; voting, assisting voters or performing election administration duties; when individuals are in counties certified by the Department of Health as having s low risk of community transmission; or when participating in athletic activities when a mask would inhibit the activity.
Masks will also not be required when giving a speech or performance, but individuals must be safely distanced.
There will be penalties and enforcement for the executive order. A violation is a misdemeanor and could mean a fine of “not less than $100 and no more than $500.” First-time violators are expected to receive a verbal or written warning, and violators under 18-years-old must only receive warnings.
Law enforcement officers may not detain, arrest or jail individuals for this executive order. However, Hutchinson, said that law enforcement may continue to enforce trespassing laws when called by local businesses due to mask violations.
This mandate is set to expire when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
“This whole fight against COVID-19 is likely to get harder and not easier. We have to meet the challenge together, and everyone must do their part and this is a way to enlist the support of everyone in this fight,” Hutchinson said.