Governor Asa Hutchinson issued an Executive Order today mandating that individuals wear face masks within the state of Arkansas. The Executive Order states that the Arkansas Secretary of Health shall issue a public health directive requiring every person in Arkansas to wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in most situations.
- Face masks are required indoors where:
- Individuals are exposed to other non-household individuals; and
- Where distancing of six (6) feet or more cannot be assured.
- Face masks are required outdoors where:
- Individuals are exposed to non-household members, unless there exists ample space of six (6) feet or more to physical distance.
This Executive Order is not without exemptions. The exemptions to this Executive Order include those individuals who:
- Are younger than 10 years of age;
- Have a medical condition or disability that prevents the wear of a face covering;
- Are performing job duties where six feet physical distancing is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to the ability to safely and effectively perform one’s job duty;
- Are participating in athletic activities where six feet physical distancing is not possible and where the wearing of a face cover is inhibitory to the activity;
- Are consuming food or drink;
- Are driving alone or with passengers from the driver’s household;
- Are receiving services that require access to the face for security, surveillance, or other purposes that may temporarily remove the face covering while receiving those services;
- Are voting, assisting voters, servicing as poll watches, or performing other election related services, but the wear of face coverings is still highly encouraged;
- Are engaging in religious worship activities, however, the wear of face coverings is highly encouraged;
- Are giving a speech or performance for broadcast or to an audience so long as those persons shall stay a safe distance from nearby individuals; and
- Are located in counties where the Arkansas Department of Health has certified that the risk of community spread of COVID-19 is low.
This Executive Order has the full force and effect of law. Violations of a directive from the Secretary of Health during a public health emergency is a misdemeanor offense and upon conviction is punishable by a fine of not less than $100 and no more than $500. Law enforcement and local officials have the authority and are being encouraged to enforce this directive.
Importantly, first time offenders shall only receive a warning, and juvenile offenders under 18 years old shall only ever receive a verbal or written warning. No law enforcement officers shall have the power to arrest, detain, to confine a person in jail for violation of this Executive Order. However, that does not preclude the arrest, confinement, or detention of an individual that violates another applicable law while removing violators of this Executive Order at the request of business owners or other property owners.
Finally, cities and counties may issue local ordinances consistent with this Executive Order, which supersedes the provisions in Executive Order 20-41 and shall automatically expire upon the termination of the current emergency. This Executive Order issued by Governor Hutchinson has far-reaching implications for employers responsible for ensuring that both employees and customers comply with its requirements.
Contact an attorney with our Firm to discuss this new development or any issue related to employment law and COVID-19.