BV mayor: Ordinance ‘might save a life or two’
By Haley Schichtl
The Berryville City Council, meeting in a special session on Monday, July 13, approved an ordinance that will allow business owners to require customers to wear a mask inside their business.
The ordinance also would apply to places of worship, government facilities, healthcare facilities, schools and other people’s homes.
The council’s decision came three days before Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order requiring the use of face coverings in public throughout the state.
Mayor Tim McKinney told the city council that the local ordinance would require businesses to put a sign on the door that says people should wear masks, but each business would decide whether or not to enforce the requirement.
“What this does is give businesses a choice,” McKinney said. “If they want to require people to use a mask in their business, that’s their business. If you don’t want to shop in a place that requires a mask, you don’t have to go in there.”
He said the police would only get involved if a business asks a customer to put on a mask or leave, and the customer refuses to do so.
“It’s kind of like if someone got caught shoplifting in a business, and they’re trespassed and can’t come back in,” city attorney Clint Scheel said. “If someone wants to be a thorn in the side and keeps pressing the issue after they’ve been told. … If they keep coming on the property without a mask, they can be cited for criminal trespass.”
McKinney said that places around the world with a mask mandate have far fewer cases of COVID-19 than the ones that don’t.
“I know that nobody is going to die from wearing a mask, but there is a possibility, if we pass this ordinance, it might save a life or two,” McKinney said. “If we don’t get this under control, we’re going to be back in lockdown.”
Dr. Richard Taylor, chief of staff at Mercy Hospital, was at the meeting to give his opinion.
“We need to do something to support businesses that wish to enforce this, and that’s all this is,” Taylor said. “This is a unique situation we have not faced in our lifetime. No one is immune to this virus.”
Council member Jason Williams said he several people had expressed concerns to him about an ordinance, including business owners who do not want to wear or require masks.
“I’m concerned that if we’ve had no problems locally with it, by passing it we might be lighting the fire for controversy,” Williams said.
Williams asked whether there have been any issues locally with people not wanting to comply with a business’s request that customers wear masks.
Police chief Robert Bartos said he wasn’t aware of any such cases, and Taylor said there have not been any problems with people refusing to wear a mask at the hospital.
“The debate to me is not whether we should or shouldn’t wear one, it’s whether we need a law enforced locally,” Williams said.
“I think the fact that city council is doing this, it makes a statement about how much it will protect our health,” McKinney responded.
The Arkansas Department of Health recommends that people wear masks in all indoor and outdoor environments where they are around non-household members and cannot stay at least six feet apart.