Sheriff Releases Statement on Mask Order
On July 16th, the Governor of Arkansas issued an Executive Order that requires people to wear face coverings when out in public.
As Sheriff, I do agree that the COVID - 19 Virus is a very serious health issue, I feel that the citizens and visitors to Hempstead County know when they should and should not wear a mask and whether they fall within one of the several exemptions of the face covering mandate.
Our Deputies will not be issuing citations for failing to wear a mask or face covering. Instead I have directed my deputies to focus on education and will encourage all citizens who are out in public to follow the advice of Health Care Professionals to help stop the spread of the COVID -19 virus. Our Deputies will be wearing face coverings when dealing with the public.
The Governor's Order, requires the wearing of a mask or face covering in all indoor and outdoor settings when not around family members or when social distancing of at least 6 feet cannot be assured. There are a number of exemptions to this regulation. Below are the exemptions;
a. Persons younger than 10 years of age;
b. Persons with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
c. Persons performing job duties where a six (6) feet distance is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to the ability to safety and effectively perform the job duty;
d. Persons participating in athletic activities where a six (6) feet distance is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to the activity;
e. Persons consuming food or drink;
f. Persons driving alone or with passengers from the driver's household;
g. Persons receiving services that require access to the face for security, surveillance, or other purposes may temporarily remove a face covering while receiving those services;
h. Persons voting, assisting voters, serving as poll watchers, or actively performing election administration duties; however, face coverings are strongly encouraged;
i. Persons engaged in religious worship activities; however, face coverings are strongly encouraged;
j. Persons giving a speech or performance for broadcast or to an audience; however, those persons shall safely distance from nearby individuals;
k. Persons in counties where the Department of Health has certified that risk of community transmission of COVID-19 is low. To be considered low risk, the county must not have a newly identified case of COVID-19 for twenty-eight (28) consecutive days, assuming there has been adequate testing in the county.
The Governor's Mandate specifically states that law enforcement officers cannot detain, arrest, or confine any person for violating this order, and with the numerous exemptions allowed by the mandate. The Hempstead County Sheriff's Office will not respond to complaints of non-compliance of the mask directive.
The Hempstead County Sheriff's Office will respond to complaint calls where a person has been asked by a business to comply with the mask directive or leave the premises but then refuses to leave. This would constitute a criminal trespass matter that is a separate and distinct violation under the law.
My Directive only applies to actions and decisions undertaken by Hempstead County Sheriff's Deputies. It is not applicable to actions or decisions undertaken by other law enforcement agencies or jurisdictions in Hempstead County.
James A. Singleton, Sheriff
Hempstead County, Arkansas