Virus

Although Arkansas has officially banned gatherings of 10 or more people due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, there may be Magnolia residents ignoring the order.

CLICK HERE to see the Arkansas Department of Health directive to Arkansas residents, issued on Thursday.

CLICK HERE to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s executive order about the matter, also issued on Thursday.

The governor’s order took effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will remain in force indefinitely.

Violators of the ban can be charged with a misdemeanor and subjected to a fine of between $100 and $500, and/or imprisonment up to a month.

The governor’s order said that all public and private gatherings of any number of people, taking place outside a single household or living unit, are subject to the restrictions.

The ban applies to gatherings in any confined indoor or outdoor space, including community, civic, public, leisure, commercial or sports events, concerts, conference, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs and festivals.

Apparent confusion is arising from what the state orders allow. They do not apply to gatherings of 10 or more people in unenclosed, outdoor spaces such as parks, trails, athletic fields and courts, parking lots, golf courses and driving ranges where people can be separated by at least six feet of space – a practice that has come to be known as “social distancing.”

The ban also does not apply to businesses, manufacturers, construction companies, places of worship, and government operations. All of those entities have been advised to maintain at least six feet of space between participants.

magnoliareporter.com has received complaints about large outdoor gatherings of people in Magnolia, specifically, a group in the 600 block of East McNeil.

Magnolia Police Chief Todd Dew, commenting Saturday about the group, said, “We can break up the crowds. However, they can be outside, and as long as they can spread out with a safe distance between them, they aren’t violating the order.

“Officers are checking East McNeil and will as much as possible,” Dew said.

Local law enforcement officers have also been sent to other locations in Magnolia and Columbia County in recent days regarding large crowds.

Health authorities fear that any large gathering of people may lead toward large local infections of the public with the COVID-19 virus.

The virus has already shut down schools and many businesses and industries across the state and nation. Treatment of victims has also begun to strain medical resources.

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