Sebastian County sheriff says masks are best way to prevent outbreak at jail

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A technicality in Arkansas’ law regarding a ban on mask mandates prevents the Sebastian County jail from enforcing masks.

Act 1002 bans local governments from mandating masks, but some places like prisons or private businesses are excluded. They can require masks if they choose.

Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion says jails, which are different than prisons, were not on the list.

He says while many of the jail staff are choosing to wear a mask, a requirement cannot be enforced.

Runion says it’s one of the best ways to keep a COVID-19 outbreak from happening.

“My constitutional obligation is to do the best I can to keep the inmates safe,” Runion said. “And, my most valuable commodity at this office is my personnel, so I want to be able to do everything I can to keep them as safe as we can.”

Runion says just this week, more than 400 inmates had to be tested for COVID-19.

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