As the novel coronavirus comes bouncing back in some states, various executives are either issuing or considering new directives making the wearing of face masks in public mandatory. While this has clearly ruffled some feathers, the courts thus far seem to be willing to continue giving governors and mayors wide latitude in issuing such demands. But as an old adage reminds us, saying and doing are frequently two very different things. You can say that wearing a mask is mandatory, but that doesn’t do much for your situation if people decide to ignore you. First, you have to find police willing to enforce the rule and, assuming you do, they have to have the resources to process all of the people violating the order. That’s a situation that’s currently cropping up in Arkansas and other states that are now in the midst of trying to figure out how this is all going to work. (Associated Press)
Lang Holland, the chief of police in tiny Marshall, Arkansas, said he thinks the threat of the coronavirus has been overstated and only wears a face mask if he’s inside a business that requires them. He doesn’t make his officers wear them either.
So the day after Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an order requiring masks to be worn in public throughout Arkansas, Holland made it clear his department wasn’t going to enforce the mandate in the Ozarks town of about 1,300, calling it an unconstitutional overreach.
“All I’m saying is if you want to wear a mask, you have the freedom to choose that,” said Holland, who said he supports President Donald Trump. “It should not be dictated by the nanny state.”
As of this week, 32 states now have face mask mandates in place for people who go outdoors or into public buildings. That’s well over half of the country, and not one of these states has failed to run into some people who don’t want to go along with the orders.
The Sheriff of Lonoke County wasn’t taking as hard of a line as Lang Holland, saying that he agreed that masks are a good idea and his deputies wear them while mixing with the public. But he also said that he simply doesn’t have the resources to deal with all of the people violating the order and has to focus on more serious crimes. Other Sheriffs in Texas, Montana and Alabama have told similar stories to those above. Some say they simply disagree with the order while others say they don’t have the manpower to be writing all of those tickets.
A few of the law enforcement leaders drew comparisons to crimes like jaywalking. If they suddenly began receiving a flurry of calls about people crossing the street outside of the crosswalk, they wouldn’t be sending officers to respond to them. Of course, somebody who is flaunting the jaywalking laws is probably, at most, going to only get themselves killed or possibly cause an accident involved a few other people. Someone carrying the COVID-19 virus could potentially wind up drawing a lot more people into danger through their “crime.”
While I know many people disagree, I’ve never even been on the fence about this one. I’ve been wearing a mask on the exceptionally rare occasions when I venture off my property. And I don’t allow anyone in the door (or even close to it) without wearing one as well. I’m not at the point of turning into a male version of a “Karen” and texting pictures to the cops when I see someone passing my house maskless. What they do is their business and I doubt the cops would do anything about it anyway, even in blue New York. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I wasn’t in one of the more vulnerable categories in terms of dropping dead from this plague. I honestly don’t know. But I’ll go ahead and own up to some selfishness here. Unlike many of the common posters and memes about masks that are making the rounds, I’m wearing a mask to protect me and my family, not you.