Gov. Beshear: Kentucky to Mandate Masks in Public Amid COVID-19 ‘Explosion’

Gov. Beshear: Kentucky to Mandate Masks in Public Amid COVID-19 ‘Explosion’
Andy Beshear speaks to supporters in Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 5, 2019.(John Sommers II/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced on July 9 that the state will require all residents to wear face masks or coverings in public places beginning Friday.

The mask mandate begins at 5 p.m. Friday and will last 30 days, Beshear said, noting that it comes amid an “explosion” of cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The state recorded two of its highest days of daily COVID-19 cases since March. Kentucky announced 333 newly reported cases and four deaths on Thursday.

“We’re starting to see a real increase in Kentucky,” the Democrat governor told reporters during a press briefing Thursday.

Beshear explained that Kentuckians are required to wear masks in places such as retailers and restaurants, and outdoor spaces where it is not possible to practice social distancing. Residents are not required to wear a mask while eating, drinking, or exercising if they can maintain social distancing of six feet, he said.

Those exempt include people with health conditions such as asthma that prevent them from wearing a mask and children under age 5.

“I believe if we’re clear, and we don’t have a lot of exceptions, and people absolutely know the expectation it gives us our very best chance of getting it done,” Beshear said.

“Putting in a mandatory mask rule, if we were still plateaued, that was going to be something that was going to be harder for people to accept.” he continued. “We know we have got to do it with the way things are going.”

“Science tells us now … that a mask helps to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he added. “It helps prevent other people from getting it from you, and now studies are showing it can help you stop from getting the virus in the first place.”

Beshear emphasized that it is now mandatory for Kentucky residents to wear masks in public, noting that people could face a fine if they repeatedly refuse to do so.

“I don’t care what kind of backlash I take,” he said, adding that businesses such as restaurants that fail to ensure employees wear masks could be temporarily shut down.

Beshear was asked about an order from a Scott County Circuit Court judge that temporarily blocks the governor from enforcing COVID-19 restrictions at more than 500 of the state’s agritourism businesses. The suit was filed by Agriculture Commissioner of Kentucky Ryan Quarles and joined by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Beshear said the judge’s ruling would be appealed to the state appeals court.

“This shouldn’t be political, and it all seems to be,” Beshear said.

The governor said that if Kentuckians comply, he believes restaurants can be kept open at 50 percent capacity, and retail will be able to remain open.

“If we do this, if we really do it, not just when we think people are watching ... I believe we can keep the things open we have opened up and if we do it, I think we got a shot at sports that other states are worried about. But it’s on us,” he added.

The mask mandate comes after Vice President Mike Pence said late last month that people should follow guidance from state and local officials on wearing masks in public to curb transmission of the CCP virus.

President Donald Trump has said that he will leave it to states to decide whether masks should be mandatory to protect against the virus.

“One of the elements of the genius of America is the principle of federalism, of state and local control,” the vice president said on June 28. “We’ve made it clear that we want to defer to governors. We want to defer to local officials, and people should listen to them.”

He remarked that “every state has a unique situation,” praising the American principle of federalism.

An increasing number of states are requiring their residents to cover their faces when they visit essential businesses or use public transportation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.