LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Thursday, July 16 that he would sign an executive order for a mask mandate for the state of Arkansas later that afternoon to go in effect on Monday, July 20. This is a developing story and more specific information will be available in the coming days.
Governor Hutchinson has consistently been mindful of churches during the COVID crisis in an effort to protect the separation of church and state. This mandate specifically exempts churches during “worship activities” stating:
- Engaging in religious worship activities, however, they are strongly encouraged [to follow the guidance]
- Anyone with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing face masks
- Job duties where social distancing is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to their ability to safely and effectively do their jobs
- Consuming food or drink
The staff of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention has consistently encouraged churches to take the safety of church attenders and staff very seriously.
Further exemptions include:
To read the updated guidelines by the Arkansas Department of Health given to places of worship to strongly consider, click here.
In the press conference, Hutchinson stated that due to the rising number of cases and hospitalizations, and with school reopening in August, he believed this move was necessary. He said that adults must “set the right example” for kids since they will be wearing them when heading back to school this fall.
“I have listened to the doctors and nurses that are on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19, and they ask the public to do more,” Hutchinson said.
The order will require that anyone over the age of 10 wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose in all indoor and outdoor environments where social distancing is impossible, or there is exposure to non-household members.
A violation of this order is considered a misdemeanor offense, and a fine between $100-$500 can be issued. No law enforcement or local officials can arrest, detain, or jail an individual for defying the order though.
If you’d like to watch the full press conference, click here.