Local schools continue with mask policies

Friday, April 2, 2021

Three more vaccine clinics were announced during Blytheville Mayor James Sanders’ weekly COVID-19 update on March 31.

The first will be held April 5 at the Mississippi County Health Department at 1299 N. 10th St. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccination will be available. Those interested in receiving the vaccine can call 1-800-803-7847 to solidify a specific time.

Additionally, New St. Paul Baptist Church at 515 N. Sawyer St. will hold another clinic April 8 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., administering the Moderna vaccine. Citizens can call 501-526-2211 to sign up.

On the same day, Healthy Partners will also be giving the Moderna vaccine from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 605 2nd Street with a sign up number of 870-532-6001. Mayor Sanders reported 24 active cases in Mississippi County and also reminded the public that these individual clinics are not the only source of vaccines in the county.

“These clinics are in addition to what is already being brought here through Rose Pharmacy, Gosnell Drugs Walmart and other pharmacies around us. All we’re trying to do is extend and provide additional avenues for those who desire to take the vaccine,” Sanders said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson also announced Tuesday that vaccines are now available to everyone 16 and above. However, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for those under 18 years of age. All three vaccines, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer, have been approved for those 18 and above, providing some overlap.

Hutchinson also announced in his press conference that the state-wide mask mandate has been lifted. However, all businesses, government buildings and event venues will have the right to require masks on their property and to receive service.

Blytheville police chief Ross Thompson further explained what the mandate covered and what it means for it to be lifted by the governor.

“The mask mandate applied to specific businesses,” Thompson said. “That simply meant if an inspector from a health department came into one of those locations and saw that customers or employees weren’t complying, that [the business] could be fined. Now that it’s lifted, if someone’s not wearing a mask the business owner won’t receive a citation. But if any business decides to continue and has a sign saying it’s required, you still need to wear a mask.”

Thompson also said masks will be required at the Mississippi County District Court as well as the police department.

With the possibility of the city council returning to in-person meetings, Sanders also ensured that masks would be required there as well.

Local schools such as Armorel Blytheville and Gosnell have announced that they will continue to follow the CDC and Arkansas Department of Health's guidelines which still advise wearing masks and continuing to social distance.

Additionally, Gosnell School District will review the guidelines and make plans moving forward at their April 12 board meeting.

Riverside Superintendent Jeff Priest said the district will continue with the current policy until the board meets on Monday, April 5. A decision will be made on the masks and other Covid-19 guidelines for the remainder of the year at the Monday night meeting. Presently, Riverside has the 2021-2021 prom scheduled for April 16 at the Embassy Suites Ballroom in Jonesboro. Also, graduation is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 2.

Manila Superintendent Jason Evers said they are thankful to students, staff, and families “for being so determined to keep our school open by following the face covering and social distancing guidelines for the past year.”

“Numbers are steadily decreasing in the school and community because of these efforts. Normalcy is our goal and we want that as quickly as possible,” he said. “However, after listening to health professionals, the Manila School Administration and Board feel for that to be achieved we need stay with the current mask policy for the remainder of this school year. We understand there are differing opinions regarding the mandate, but we believe this is the safest decision for all students and staff members. We appreciate your understanding and support. We hope to have normalcy as the 2021-2022 school year begins in August, but we will make that decision at a much later time, and after seeking input from health professionals. Upcoming dates include prom on April 9, senior graduation on May 10 and kindergarten graduation May 14.