The Fayetteville City Council Tuesday night adopted an ordinance requiring masks to be worn in businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Good coverage in the Fayetteville Flyer.
This follows the mayor’s proclamation only encouraging the wearing of masks. But he applauded the Council action on Facebook.
City Attorney Kit Williams noted that Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s emergency declaration during the health crisis prohibits local governments from adopting their own rules. This provision was cited by Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. for the inability to go beyond the governor’s original guidance with a stronger stay-home order.
So that’s one big asterisk. If the ordinance is enforced, will the violator be able to challenge it on the strength of the governor’s order? Would the governor himself move to stomp out this effort at local autonomy? Send in the National Guard, maybe, to restore proper governmental order?
More seriously: It will be high irony if the governor declares Fayetteville out of bounds for trying to require a practice the governor himself has recommended, but which he is unwilling to mandate and which is being ignored by the vast majority of Arkansans.
The ordinance applies in public areas and businesses are expected to require customers to wear masks. It would be enforced only for “willful neglect.” Fayetteville is also going to provide some money for businesses to buy masks.
The Memphis City Council last night also passed an ordinance requiring masks in businesses, public buildings and when seeking medical care.
The mayors of Texas’ largest cities took a different approach: They wrote the governor asking for authority to adopt masking rules. Arkansas cities could try that, but would likely fail. Hutchinson has been adamant about having uniform statewide rules, even in COVID-19 crisis spots, such as Fayetteville’s home in Washington County.
The partisan divide on masks was showing in Montgomery, Ala., where the council failed to pass a mask ordinance (with a vote mostly on racial lines) and doctors in support of the measure walked out in disgust. One leader of the opposition, Brantley Lyon (no relation, I hope) invoked a constitutional right not to wear a mask. He didn’t provide a case cite on that.