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EDITORIAL: Time for a mask order

July 16, 2020 at 2:46 a.m.

So much for the warmer weather making the covid-19 virus disappear. California is shutting down again. Atlanta and San Diego have said they're not opening schools in the fall. Morgues have reached capacity in certain precincts in Texas and Arizona.

And the trajectory here in Arkansas isn't good either.

After Arkansas shattered its previous record over the weekend with a day in which infections topped 1,000, we figured surely the governor would issue a mask order. It's not the political decision anyone wants to make, but it's time.

Some folks are just not going to wear a mask. But it's time for those people to face at least the shame and ostracism of not complying.

Masks aren't like toilet paper at the start of this pandemic. They're available in abundance at box stores, markets and even convenience stores. Grab a pack when you go in to get your medication. Problem solved. If you can't afford one, good news. You can make one from an old T-shirt or other fabric you might have lying around. Instructions are on the CDC website here:

The time to play nice and hope for the best is long past. Arkansas needs a mask policy with some teeth.

If the governor of Texas can muster up the political will to issue a mask order, it's time for Gov. Asa Hutchinson to do the same. Folks will scream. They'll stomp their feet. They might protest. But saving lives overrules all of those childish responses. Extraordinary emergencies require extraordinary actions.

The science is clear: Arkansas has two tools in its arsenal to limit the spread of covid-19: social distancing and wearing a mask when out in public places. You can still go for a walk or run with no mask if you stay six feet away from others.

But when you can't, or when you go into a grocery store, you need a mask. It doesn't deplete your oxygen levels. You do not get carbon dioxide poisoning. You simply decrease the amount of germs you put into the air around you every time you breathe. Ask a nurse.

New Zealand has been able to reopen and remove all restrictions on its populace. Why? Because folks there listened to their medical professionals and government. When the prime minister said "wear a mask," they did.

It's time for us to do the same. The governor needs to rip off the bandage and get this over with.

Arkansas doesn't want to be another Florida. Or Texas or Arizona or California. And we don't want to shut everything down again, which is becoming increasingly likely if we don't buckle down now and wear masks.

The alarm clock has been ringing for weeks now. The state can't hit the snooze button any longer.

Sometimes leading means making hard decisions. This is one of them.


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