Face coverings will now be required when in public places in Little Rock.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has signed an executive order mandating the wearing of face masks when in public. Scott told reporters on June 17 that he was considering an executive order to require face coverings in the city. Scott signed the order on Thursday, June 25.
Under the executive order, all citizens will be required to wear a face mask or face covering in public places “except when it is likely that physical distancing of at least six (6) feet from other individuals is practicable. The order exhorts individuals to wear masks outside of their homes when they are in essential businesses, including grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as non-essential businesses.
Individuals waiting for or riding on public transportation, which includes buses, taxis, private car services and ride-sharing vehicles, are required to wear masks, as are the vehicle operators.
The order states that masks are not required when individuals are in a private business open to the public or “as otherwise mandated by the Governor of the State of Arkansas or the Secretary of State.”
According to the order, face coverings are not required when an individual is in their personal office when others are not around, so long as members of the public do not regularly visit the office.
Individuals who have difficulty breathing or would be unable to remove the face covering without assistance are also not required to wear one.
In addition, children aged two or under should not wear masks, according to the order, due to the risk of suffocation. Children aged 12 and under are not required to wear masks.
Little Rock is not the first city to mandate the use of face coverings in public. The Fayetteville City Council passed an ordinance requiring face masks in public on Tuesday, June 16.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has weighed in on the municipal efforts to require face masks in public, warning that cities should not violate the public emergency order issued in March and that has been subsequently renewed twice. According to section 14 of the public health emergency declaration, cities and counties should not regulate commerce or travel through COVID-related measures. “Curfews should not prevent citizens of any age from traveling to and from work, acquiring food or essential goods and services, walking pets, or acquiring exercise outdoors while maintaining social distance of at least six (6) feet,” according to the order.
The Little Rock executive order seeks to preempt the charge of disrupting commerce. According to the first section of the executive order, the declaration will not be “utilized to regulate or otherwise interfere with commerce” and it will not “amend or countermand the authority of the Secretary of Health orders or rules made and promulgated by the Arkansas State Board of Health…”
In the city order, Scott wrote that the city is limited in its available actions by the state orders and directives. “Therefore, we are obligated to take the strongest action permitted by law to ensure the residents of Little Rock are protected. This Declaration is intended to supplement any provisions contained in a prior Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency issued by my office in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote.
See the full order here.
Image courtesy of Frank Scott Jr.