POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - American Made General Store put out a statement on Facebook saying they will not enforce the Governor’s mask mandate.
Owner Chad Overman says it was an easy decision to make.
“I put out the post just to let people know where we stand on it,” Overman said. “In our businesses, I don’t feel like we’re disrespecting the Governor’s mandate at all, I think he’s left it open for interpretation, there’s a lot of wiggle room in it.”
Overman says he feels the decision to wear a mask should be a personal decision and not a decision forced on him.
He says it’s hard to look past the COVID-19 numbers in Randolph County, which currently features 31 active cases and two deaths as of Friday. He adds that he doesn’t want to be the ‘mask police.’
“I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to enforce a customer to wear something that I don’t even feel like they need to wear,” Overman said. “We’re a nation of freethinkers and risk-takers, and looking back to the 1800′s, what would have happened if the government officials back then would’ve said ‘hey, don’t go on the wagon train ride across the U.S. because it’s too dangerous?’”
Overman added that he feels that COVID-19 “isn’t as dangerous as people say it is.”
Even though COVID cases are on the rise in Arkansas, and health experts have recommended wearing a face mask, American Made will not be requiring them at their stores despite the Governor’s mandate.
Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell said Thursday that his office would not be arresting people who are not wearing a mask.
Bell said Friday that he encourages people to wear a mask due to respect for business and people, but that he believes that government should not be able to tell others what to wear and that any mandate should be left up to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told Region 8 News Friday that the health of Arkansas residents is a key reason for the decision.
“The decision to enforce the law is always a local decision based upon priorities. While I know that wearing a mask when you cannot socially distance is inconvenient, it is important to protect others and will help us to resume school and all the other activities of life that we enjoy,” Gov. Hutchinson said.