Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
Fayetteville officials on Thursday announced plans for an increased presence of police officers and fire marshals in the downtown entertainment district beginning through the Labor Day holiday weekend whose sole purpose will be to educate and enforce a mask mandate and other directives related to COVID-19.
The announcement comes in response to growing concerns about the potential for community spread of the virus resulting from restaurant and bar patrons gathering in groups both indoors and outdoors.
Officials said the city has received several complaints from residents that many patrons are not wearing face coverings and are ignoring social distancing guidelines.
“We want to raise COVID-19 prevention awareness and compliance with everyone who visits our downtown and Dickson areas, but our efforts this holiday weekend are specifically designed to reach University of Arkansas students,” said Mayor Lioneld Jordan. “Whether you live here full-time, part-time or are just visiting—each of us has a responsibility to help keep this community healthy by following simple guidelines to prevent COVID-19 spread.”
The announcement followed news from Gov. Asa Hutchinson of a spike in COVID-19 cases led by younger people in college towns across Arkansas.
Cumulative cases reached 63,081 across the state on Thursday, which is an increase of 969 since Wednesday.
Hutchinson said 81% of the new cases are from people ages 18-24.
“We need all of our college-aged kids to take this more seriously than the average college student takes a pandemic,” he said. “We ask you to make sure you help protect others, especially over the (Labor Day) weekend, so we can continue to have the kind of school year we all expect.
Four police officers are currently assigned to the Dickson Street and downtown square areas Wednesday through Saturday evenings and late-night hours. Those officers will be joined by two additional officers and personnel from the Fayetteville Fire Marshal’s office through the weekend, said Fayetteville Police Chief Mike Reynolds.
“Our student population includes people from many different cities, states and countries who may not be fully aware of our state and local directives,” said Reynolds. “We hope this increased presence of (public safety officers) and their engagement in the entertainment district will help students better understand and follow COVID-19 directives as well as their own student code of conduct.”