Retailer defended by corporate headquarters

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Several residents have complained that Dollar Don’s discount store on US 62 in Eureka Springs had a sign on the door, “No Masks Required,” and that the clerk was not wearing a mask. This reporter visited the store Nov. 3. There was no sign on the door, but the clerk was not wearing a mask.

When asked why, the clerk said that masks don’t protect people from the Covid-19 and that you can still get Covid while wearing masks. The clerk, who refused to identify herself, said that wearing masks was a “mandate,” but not a law. She said there are several shops downtown where masks are not worn by employees.

A statewide mask mandate went into effect in Arkansas July 20. The mandate requires adults to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors when social distancing of at least six feet can’t be achieved with non-family members. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the mandate carries the power of law and, after a warning for the first offense, violations will be misdemeanor offenses punishable by a fine between $100-500.

Resident Liz Kimberlin said she visited the store in late October and noted the sign on the door stating masks were not required, and that the woman behind the counter was not wearing a mask.

Kimberlin said she went to the Dollar Don’s chain store Facebook page and mentioned the sign and the clerk not wearing a mask, and the fact that Covid deaths were rapidly rising in Carroll County.

“They quickly deleted my comment and contacted me via private message that said: “Liz, I will be happy to discuss this with you! I do not want an open discussion on Facebook. The health issues of other people are not in my control.”

Kimberlin responded to Dollar Don’s message that she was hoping “to reach someone in a position of power to determine whether flouting a mask mandate in a time of national crisis is worth the bad press to your business in this informed, activist community, which is outspokenly committed to respecting the mandate.”

She said the Dollar Don’s response was: “I don’t intend to gossip about others in town. Their health is their business not mine. Most all my employees wear masks including the owner.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that Covid-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. CDC states that’s why it’s important for everyone to wear masks in public settings and practice social distancing.

“The use of cloth masks during the coronavirus disease pandemic is under debate,” the CDC writes. “The filtration effectiveness of cloth masks is generally lower than that of medical masks and respirators; however, cloth masks may provide some protection if well designed and used correctly. Multilayer cloth masks, designed to fit around the face and made of water-resistant fabric with a high number of threads and finer weave, may provide reasonable protection.

“Until a cloth mask design is proven to be equally effective as a medical or N95 mask, wearing cloth masks should not be mandated for healthcare workers. In community settings, however, cloth masks may be used to prevent community spread of infections by sick or asymptomatically infected persons, and the public should be educated about their correct use.”

On Nov. 7, there was a sign on the door that masks are required.

Danyelle McNeill, public information officer, Arkansas Department of Health, said there are many studies that support how masks reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus. Regarding the legality of the law, she said Arkansas law, Ark Code Ann. §12-75-101, et. seq., provides the authority for the governor to issue emergency Executive Orders. The most recent Executive Order, renewing the disaster and public health emergency issued by the governor was issued Oct. 13.

“This has the force and effect of law,” McNeill said.

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