At the start of the week, Jonesboro city officials had no plans to implement a public mask mandate. A surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days throughout Northeast Arkansas and the rest of the state, however, has all but forced public officials’ hands.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin has instructed city attorney Carol Duncan to draft a resolution recommending that all those in public wear a mask. A timetable for passing the resolution was not released.
In a statement released Friday (July 10) to Talk Business & Politics, Perrin said the step is necessary to protect businesses in the community during the health and economic crisis that has gripped the country.
“I simply want to support businesses and encourage them to enforce mask policies with their customers as most already have,” he said. “I want Jonesboro to stay safe and avoid the outbreak that has ravaged so many cities in Arkansas, the nation and the world.”
It wasn’t clear if there would be any penalty for not wearing a mask in public. It comes after city council members Ann Williams and L.J. Bryant introduced an ordinance on Tuesday night that would require masks in public places.
Perrin said the resolution will follow state suggestions for such a measure.
“By state law, it will be some version of the model ordinance sent by the governor and the Municipal League, but Jonesboro will not have neighbors reporting on one another to police,” he said.
The move comes as COVID-19 cases and deaths surge in Northeast Arkansas. Craighead County had 515 cases and seven reported deaths as of Friday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Crittenden County has 815 cases with 13 deaths while St. Francis County still leads the region with 898 cases with three deaths.
Lawrence County remains another hot spot in the region with 111 confirmed cases and nine reported deaths.