By Ray King

A model ordinance that would permit Arkansas cities to adopt a face mask policy has won the approval of Governor Asa Hutchinson who has issued an executive order to that effect.

At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, the Governor said he has worked with the Arkansas Municipal League which created the model ordinance. The ordinance will provide consistency across the state, the Governor said, rather than having 500 different cities create 500 different ordinances.

The ordinance is tied to guidelines from the Arkansas Health Department and provides that law enforcement or county may encourage or educate the public about wearing a mask, particularly when contacted by a local business who complains that customers refuse to wear a mask, even though health department guidelines require it, as in the case of dine-in service at restaurants or visits to barber and beauty shops.

Citing a survey of 600 likely adult voters between June 29 and 30, Hutchinson said 82 percent of respondents said they wear a mask or face covering while in public while 16 percent said they did not. Of those who said they did not, a total of 15 people said they believed masks were ineffective, 12 said they believed masks were not necessary and 11 said the virus is a hoax.

There were 547 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the state over the past 24 hours, 182 in correctional facilities and the remaining 365 in community settings. Washington County has the highest number of reported cases of any county in Arkansas with 84, followed by Benton and Pulaski Counties which had 74 each. No other country in the state had more than 20.

There are currently 285 people hospitalized, that’s 13 more than on Thursday and there have been 281 deaths.

State Health Officer Dr. Nate Smith said there are currently 6,177 active cases of COVID-19, 156 in nursing homes, 671 in correctional facilities and the remaining 5,350 in community settings.

Smith also used charts to compare the risks of catching COVID-19 over the 4th of July holiday to the risks that existed during the Memorial Day holiday. He said on Friday of the Memorial Day weekend, there were 1,063 active cases of COVID-19 while Friday of the 4th of July weekend there are 5,350 active cases.

He said that means Arkansas residents have five times the chance of catching COVID-19 now as they did during Memorial Day.