Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

NWA City leaders say they need more COVID-19 information before passing mask ordinance

Coronavirus

Northwest Arkansas cities have a decision to make after Governor Asa Hutchinson gave them the power to require face masks on Friday.

CAVE SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Northwest Arkansas cities have a decision to make after Governor Asa Hutchinson gave them the power to require face masks on Friday.

To require masks or not?

Mayors across Arkansas are now tasked with answering this question in the form of passing a new ordinance.

“All public businesses and outdoor spaces require a mask when distancing is not possible is what it says in a nutshell,” said Mayor Cave Springs Randall Noblett.

Mayor Noblett said the real kicker is, it can’t be enforced.

He said, “There’s no fines, there’s no real beyond the fact you can’t do business there until you put a mask on.”

Sulphur Springs Mayor Shane Weber said he also struggles to wrap his head around passing an unenforceable ordinance.

“I’ve talked to my chief of police about it too and he’s like, ‘I wouldn’t enforce it anyway,'” he said. “My officers have a bigger job to do than go around and babysit someone about whether they’re wearing a mask or not.”

But, the two mayors say there’s a larger problem here.

The pair said they have a hard time making a decision on a mask ordinance because they have no way of knowing how many positive COVID-19 cases they have in their area.

Weber said, “That’s valuable information we should have. Obviously, if you’re going to make a decision like this you want to be as educated as possible.”

“It may be we’re not doing quite enough, it might be we’re actually being overprotective if you can,” said Mayor Noblett. “But in either case, it would be a good tool to know what the actual status within your own city is.”

The Department of Health is still unable to give a date on when this information will be available to people like Mayor Noblett and Mayor Weber.

In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Nate Smith said, “We are working with the municipal league and we expect to be able to do that shortly.”

For now, these city leaders plan to put the ordinance in front of their city councils.

“I personally will sign it if they pass it. I do see the importance of being careful, being proactive,” said Mayor Noblett.

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