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As COVID surges again in Arkansas, resturant owners weighing safety measures for customers and staff

With no mask mandate in Arkansas, some restaurants are taking matters into their own hands as COVID cases surge again.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Arkansas and with no mandates from the state, are some businesses are taking their own precautions.

“Even though our staff is vaccinated, we still highly encourage them to be masked and wear gloves mainly because it makes people feel comfortable,” Omar Kasim, owner of Con Queso and Plomo Quesadillas, said. 

Employees at Con Queso and Plomo Quesadillas in Fayetteville are required to wear masks and wear gloves when handling food.  

“For those customers that may be very hesitant coming into stores due to COVID protocols being lifted, we want to make sure that we present them an environment they are welcomed,” Kasim said. 

Kasim told 5NEWS they don’t want to risk having to go into quarantine and shutting down the restaurants because COVID exposure and masks provide extra security. He doesn’t plan to ask his customers to wear them or add any guidelines unless those recommendations come from the state or CDC.  

“The risk-reward of us having to wear a mask, you know if it helps increase our chances of reducing the amount of exposure to covid, that’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make,” he said. 

In Central Arkansas, things are a little different. In the last week, several restaurants are coming out with stricter guidelines for customers, like requiring masks and no longer offering indoor dining. Little Rock restaurant the Root Café closed their indoor dining room last week because of the rise in cases.  

RELATED: Restaurants reimplement COVID-19 guidelines as Delta variant spreads

“We feel like we're doing the right thing for our staff, our community, and we hope, Little Rock, as a whole,” Jack Sundell, co-owner of Root Café, said.  

Sundell says the decision to close their indoor dining mostly came from employees because they were worried about their children who can’t get vaccinated.  

“We want them to be safe and feel safe coming to work, and we feel like the best way that we can take care of our staff's health is not to have people dining inside, at this point,” he said.  

A law passed by the Arkansas Legislature this spring does not allow the state to implement any statewide masks mandates. This law goes into effect this week.  

RELATED: Fauci says CDC may back wearing face masks more

RELATED: 23 new COVID deaths reported in Arkansas Monday, hospitalizations spike by 61

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