By Emma Dannenfelser
Rogers Mayor Greg Hines said the city will keep its mask ordinance as long as the statewide COVID-19 emergency order remains in place, a decision that contrasts Governor Asa Hutchinson’s move to end the statewide mask mandate.
Mayor Hines, in March 30 press release, said the decision will allow more people to get fully vaccinated before removing the ordinance. Gov. Hutchinson’s emergency declaration allows local governments to keep emergency ordinances in place, such as mask mandates.
“It is important the City of Rogers stands by our local school district to protect our students, teachers and staff,” Hines said in a statement. “We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Rogers School District to finish the year strong. ”
The immunization efforts in Rogers have been going smoothly, said Andrew Mize, owner of Debbie’s Family Pharmacy in Rogers. Mize said that the only hitch was finding a way to schedule so many appointments, since many pharmacists have never before experienced such a massive rush for vaccines.
The first week of the vaccine rollout was the hardest, Mize said in a phone interview. Since there was no scheduling system in place, a waiting list quickly grew to nearly 9,000 people for vaccination appointments even though each pharmacy is only allocated roughly 120 doses each week.
Because of this, Debbie’s Family Pharmacy switched to a mass clinic approach instead of individual appointments in order to make scheduling easier for anyone who wanted a vaccine shot. The pharmacy scheduled one day per week for a clinic and administered all of the doses during that event.
Mize said Debbie’s Family Pharmacy has been giving all of their doses each week, although some larger pharmacies have been seeing a lull in vaccine appointments. According to Mize, pharmacists across Northwest Arkansas put their heads together to brainstorm new and innovative ideas in order to pull off such a large effort.
“I think the city of Rogers is in a tough position, I think they’re making the best decision they could with the information they have but people should just be patient. The more vaccines we can administer the safer our community will be,” Mize said.
Steve Cox, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the mask ordinance has not hurt businesses. The city has seen record sales tax collection, almost record employment numbers and a booming real estate market.
“I feel like public health is not something to take lightly and we know the decision was not made in a vacuum. We all want to make sure that we’re being cautious,” Cox said in a phone interview.
Cox said the city is specifically eager for more tourism, events and conventions to return to Rogers in the coming months.
“In any major economic event there are going to be challenges,” Cox said, “Rogers has shown a very resilient spirit and our community rose up and met those challenges, now we are ready to get going and back to business.”