Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat. The editorial board is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
The Log Cabin Democrat commends Gov. Asa Hutchinson for issuing a statewide mandate on masks, albeit later than many had hoped for and urged.
Hutchinson on Thursday announced an order requiring masks in indoor and outdoor settings when social distancing of at least 6 feet isn’t possible that will take effect Monday.
This came after weeks of resistance, even as reporters asked him about the topic on a nearly-daily basis at his press briefings and a handful of newspapers across the state – including this one – wrote editorials calling on the governor to issue a mandate.
What changed his mind? The governor sidestepped that question at Thursday’s briefing, instead just reiterating the reasons he was issuing one now – which included the growing number of COVID-19 cases (the state surpassed 31,000 as of this writing), hospitalizations and deaths as well as preparing for schools reopening and the hope to allow fall sports.
It could have been growing support for mask mandates from businesses. On Wednesday, the nation’s largest retailer, Bentonville-based Walmart, announced it would require customers across the U.S. to wear a mask in all of its stores. Kroger, CVS, Target and others have followed suit.
He could have been following the lead of other Republican governors who have relented on the issue. Alabama’s and West Virginia’s Republican governors issued mask mandates earlier in the week.
Regardless of what made Hutchinson finally issue the order, we support this decision. We were relieved to see that, unlike the model ordnance previously drafted by the state for cities to adopt, there is a penalty for violating the order – a fine of $100-$500. With many of the businesses that require masks providing them for free and others selling them at relatively low prices, complying with the order is much cheaper than defying it.