I made a rare foray away from home yesterday and was pleased to see a merchant I visit now has masks on staff (though not covering the nose in one case).
Might this be a response to Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s executive declaration about wearing masks in public places? Maybe. And if so that’s good.
But I also spoke with several members of the Little Rock City Board who agreed with the governor’s brief assessment of the executive order: It’s encouragement, not an enforceable requirement in most places. The state requires no masking, except in a few specified places such as restaurants and bars, and specifically prohibits local governments from adopting rules that diverge from the state’s.
Home Depot and Kroger and similar retailers are NOT required to have employees wear masks by the mayor’s declaration. They are specifically exempted as private businesses that serve the public.
UPDATE: However, some are using the development apparently to justify mask requirements and the outcome is good. Photo from a local athletic goods retailer above.
The mayor, his PR apparatus and the city legal department have so far refused to respond to my requests for a direct acknowledgment of this. But be assured: You are not required to wear a mask to shop at those stores or any other retailers. Unless, of course, a private business adopts a mask requirement of its own for staff and customers, which some do. Before you go all Trump on this, remember that they may also require you to wear shoes and clothing.
I can pass this along: Some members of the city board are talking about drafting an ordinance that DOES have teeth, such as Fayetteville did (to the governor’s displeasure). So stay tuned.
UPDATE II: Even one of the dimmer bulbs in Congress is grudgingly willing to go along with masks. From Axios:
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) told the Journal he doesn’t think the case for wearing masks is “settled science.” “But I am willing to say if that’s a condition of getting our economy back on track, I’m willing to follow the rules,” he added.