A huge thanks to Jonesboro City Council members Ann Williams and L.J. Bryant, who will sponsor an ordinance mandating face masks to be worn in public. It will go before the city council’s public safety committee and, if approved, hopefully to the city council at its July 21 meeting.

Health experts in the U.S. and other countries say that everyone wearing a mask is one of the easiest, most simple things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19. Numerous studies suggest “if 80% of people wear a mask in public, then COVID-19 transmission could be halted.”

An article in the July 7 New York Times listed the 10 “hot spots” for COVID-19 in the U.S. based on population. Three Arkansas counties made the top 10 “hot spots”: No. 1, Lee County; No. 4, Hot Spring County; No. 9, Yell County. You may say “thank goodness we are not one of those counties.” People in those hot spots will travel to other parts of Arkansas.

We need to pay even closer attention to our health experts in Arkansas and Jonesboro.

July 7 the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has released new COVID-19 predictions that show Arkansas will have around 20,000 new cases of the virus per day by the end of September. If everyone wore a mask, UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson said the projection would drop to around 6,000 cases per day.

Arkansas has recently surpassed the number of cases shown in previous UAMS models. A short-term forecast predicts that, if nothing changes, there will be 31,000 cases by July 13 — an increase of 6,747 in the next week. They are now predicting that cases will increase more quickly than predicted two weeks ago.

During the July 7 public comment period of the city council’s public works committee meeting, Dr. Steven Blanchard, an emergency room physician in Jonesboro, urged council members to take action, regardless of the governor’s position. He estimated only 20 percent of people use masks in local grocery stores and other businesses. Dr. Blanchard said the city can’t afford to wait until large numbers are dying locally. We need to do something to be proactive, rather than reactive.

Dr. Christine Hartford, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the ASU medical school wrote an editorial in the July 5 Jonesboro Sun: "Three simple words: Wear. A. Mask. She stated: “The effectiveness of cloth face coverings cannot be disputed. Are they convenient? Maybe not. Are they uncomfortable? Maybe for some they are. This is the time for each of us to be OK with going the extra step, to be OK with a little discomfort. To sacrifice just a little.”

Our mayor has stated he doesn’t believe the model ordinance would accomplish anything and that “Jonesboro is not willing to try to pretend that we’re enforcing something that we don’t have the wherewithal to enforce.” Well maybe, just maybe, with a mandated mask ordinance we can bring that 20 percent of mask wearers up to 50 percent. That would be huge!

I urge everyone supporting the mask ordinance to email the city council members at: aldermen@jonesboro.org This one email will go to every council member.

Let’s not wait until the horses and cows are out of the barn and this virus comes roaring in. Let’s be proactive as we don’t have the luxury of time on our side.

Pat Qualls