Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday issued a statewide mandate to wear masks, effective Monday. Violation of the order is a misdemeanor which carries a fine of $100 to $500. First time violators will be issued a verbal or written warning, according to Hutchinson.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Arkansas rose Thursday by 817 bringing the number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 31,114. There are 6,578 active cases with 470 hospitalized. There have been 341 deaths attributed to the disease, according to state health officials.

Hutchinson made the announcement about the mask mandate at his daily Covid-19 update. He said the fight against Covid-19 is likely to get harder rather than easier.

“We have to meet the challenge together and everyone must do their part,” Hutchinson said. “This is a way to enlist the support of everyone in this fight.”

Hutchinson said he believes the mandate is appropriate and necessary due to the increase in confirmed cases, the urging of health care workers and legislators, and the upcoming return of children to school this fall.

“Our children and grandchildren will be going back to school this year and they will be required, in most instances, to wear face coverings,” Hutchinson said. “And if you think about it, if you are going to ask the children in the school setting to wear face coverings for everyone’s health and safety, then the adults must help them to be ready and to set the right example for them. And for all those reasons, I believe this mandate is appropriate and necessary.”

According to the governor’s order, every person in Arkansas must wear a mask covering the mouth and nose in all indoor environments where they are exposed to non-household members and where a distance of six feet or more cannot be assured; and in all outdoor settings where there is exposure to non-household members unless there exists ample space of six feet or more to practice physical distancing. There are, however, some exemptions. See the image below for exemptions to the mask order: