FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentuckians will be required to wear face masks or coverings in public places beginning Friday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday.
The mandate comes after two of the highest days of daily COVID-19 cases the state has recorded since March. Kentucky announced 333 newly reported cases and four deaths on Thursday.
Beshear said the increased case counts from the last few days along with an “explosion” in other states prompted him to issue the executive order. About two dozen other states have issued mask mandates in public places.
“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 said. “We know we have got to do it with the way things are going.”
The order, which will last for 30 days, does not require Kentuckians to wear a mask while eating, drinking or exercising if they can maintain social distancing of six feet. Exemptions also include children under age 5 and those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask.
“It’s not voluntary, it’s mandatory,” Beshear said. “I’m willing to take whatever criticism comes with that.”
Beshear said people who repeatedly refuse to wear masks in public could face a fine, and businesses like restaurants that don’t mask their employees could be temporarily shut down.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has voiced support for face masks during stops in Kentucky this week.
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 state agriculture secretary 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.
Beshear also announced $36 million in additional federal money from the CARES Act for 61 local and regional health departments to cover costs for personal protective equipment, testing and payroll.
For most people, the new corona virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.