Hospitalized Green Forest mayor encourages vaccinations

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Green Forest Mayor Jerry Carlton, who’s been hospitalized since July 22, is still recovering after a bout with COVID-19.

Speaking with Carroll County News on Friday via text message, Carlton said he was improving, but was still unable to speak. Nevertheless, he strongly encouraged eligible city and county residents to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus and to wear a mask where appropriate, citing a newfound perspective on the preventative measures.

“After having had the virus and knowing how devastating it can be, I would encourage everyone to be as safe as they can by using masks and get the vaccine ASAP,” said Carlton, who had not been vaccinated before contracting the virus. “I still think [the vaccine] has the potential to be dangerous but the risk of taking it is not nearly as deadly as not taking it.”

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney — who was released from quarantine on Aug. 12 after a positive test late last month — praised the vaccine in a statement he asked to be read at the Aug. 2 city council meeting, saying he only had “mild symptoms for a couple of days.”

“I am fully vaccinated and given my age and underlying health issues I feel sure that is what kept me from getting seriously ill,” McKinney wrote. “Other members of my family have also been vaccinated and they have all tested negative. I would encourage everyone who has not received the vaccine to do so. This thing is far from over and looking at the numbers in our area I am not optimistic, especially with school beginning in a couple of weeks.”

On Friday, Carlton also expressed his opinion that, while local governments should have the power to make their own decisions in regard to mask mandates, he doesn’t feel such actions should be necessary.

“Personally, I feel like local government should highly encourage citizens to be as safe as possible without the overreach of a mandate,” Carlton said. “Also, private business should be able to enforce whatever regulations they see fit to protect their employees and property. Obviously, if the state hands a mandate down and it is found to be constitutional, we will try to comply with it. I think it all really comes down using common sense, especially now that the numbers have come up so drastically.”

The topic of mask mandates has been a continued subject of debate across the state, especially in the wake of a recent special session of the state legislature.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the extraordinary session last week, hoping lawmakers would make changes to Act 1002, a bill he signed into law in the spring that prevents government entities at all levels — including public school districts and open enrollment charter schools from issuing such mandates.

Hutchinson has said he regretted signing the bill, especially in light of the rising number of cases affecting those ineligible to receive the vaccine, which is limited to those 12 and older.

The Marion school district — which began classes late last month and almost immediately saw nearly 950 students and staff quarantined after an outbreak of 54 infected students and 11 staff members —filed suit challenging Act 1002. Little Rock School District did the same in a separate suit.

On Aug. 6, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox issued a temporary injunction in the case, calling Act 1002 unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Last week, the Eureka Springs school board and the Eureka Springs City Council each reinstated their mask mandates and McKinney said the Berryville City Council plans on addressing the matter during its meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 17.

At the moment, neither the Green Forest or Berryville school districts are requiring masks, only “strongly recommending” them.

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