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City of Fort Smith lifting some COVID-19 safety protocols early as more vaccines become available

On Saturday, April 24, 2021, the City will not require special event permits to include ADH plans.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — In light of the State of Arkansas’ accelerated and expanded vaccination schedule, the City of Fort Smith has revised its COVID safety protocols for issuing permits for outdoor large venues.  

As of Tuesday (March 9), the City will require special event organizers to submit their event permits with safety protocols outlined by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) only through Friday, April 23, 2021. 

Previously, the City set the date as May 31, 2021.

Through April 23, 2021, special event organizers will need to continue to plan meetings and events using COVID-19 guidance protocols established by the (ADH).

On Saturday, April 24, 2021, the City will not require special event permits to include ADH plans. Additionally, on that date, the City will reopen community centers and public restrooms, which were previously closed. 

The Fort Smith Convention Center will also resume normal operations on that day and ask that attendees of indoor meetings and events wear masks if at all possible and continue to practice social distancing.

In keeping with the State of Arkansas, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the City is encouraging everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, to take precautions when around people at high risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Until the threat of the pandemic has been completely eliminated, the City says it encourages its residents and visitors to practice social distancing, be vigilant at washing their hands, and voluntarily wear a mask in the event Arkansas' mask mandate is rescinded. 

City officials will continue to monitor the pandemic numbers in the area and comply with the State of Arkansas Governor’s Office and Department of Health directives and guidance.

Safety protocols for large outdoor events and public gatherings are in response to the pandemic and are established to consider the safety and well-being of all. 

Special event applications within the city that do not meet the ADH’s guidance will not receive the Police Department's approval. During this time, community centers and public restrooms will remain closed as well. 

City administrator Carl Geffken says the date change is a move in the right direction.

“We know so many of our residents not only here in Fort Smith but in the entire River Valley really want to get back to a sense of normalcy,” Geffken said.

Until the threat of the pandemic has been eliminated the city asks its residents to continue taking all precautions and Geffken believes those in the River Valley are doing just that. 

“As I’m out and about I also see people always wearing their masks and maintaining the 6-foot distance so they understand the precautions that are necessary so I don’t think we need to enforce regulations at this point that people are willing to take themselves,” Geffken said.

Although Dennis Snow, President of the Steel Horse Rally which takes place at the end of May, says his goal is to still make sure everyone at the event stays safe.

“You have to be smart to be alive and that’s what we want people to understand and we want everyone to come and visit the beautiful city of fort smith,” Snow said.

Snow says he hopes with the city relaxing the guidelines more people will come out to the charity event.

“I hope this will make people a little more comfortable to come out and get back to some semblance of whatever the new Normal is going to be,” Snow said.

Applications for special events permits can be downloaded on the Fort Smith Police Department’s website.

Click here to watch the City board meeting. 

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