FORT SMITH, Ark. — Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker has issued a statement regarding face coverings following Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plans to sign an executive order requiring face masks statewide.
"The Governor of the State of Arkansas has issued an Executive Order mandating the use of face coverings in an effort to help control the spread of COVID-19. Existing state law, federal law and case law clearly and without question give the Governor the legal authority to issue such an order during a state of emergency. Existing law further states that Executive Orders issued by the Governor under these conditions have the “force and effect of law”. Rule 403.05 of the Fort Smith Police Department Rules and Regulations require that “within the City of Fort Smith, officers shall, at all times, take appropriate action to enforce all appropriate federal, state and local laws and ordinances."
"Appropriate action by the Fort Smith Police Department will be first and foremost in the spirit of community policing through education, encouragement, example and cooperation. I am confident that the overwhelming majority of Fort Smith residents and visitors care about each other and will choose to help us through personal accountability, making the need for enforcement action non-existent."
The Fort Smith Board of Directors tabled a mask ordinance for the city, stating that recommendations were already in place.
Mayor George McGill spoke out in opposition to the board members' decision, saying wearing a mask was a sign of respect for other residents.
As of Friday afternoon, there have been 1,025 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Sebastian County, with 354 of the cases still active. Eight people have died in Sebastian County from the disease.