FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday he has signed an executive order to require masks or facial coverings in certain situations statewide. The order will take effect Friday at 5 p.m.
[Beshear’s discussion of the mask mandate begins in the 18th minute of the video embedded above.]
The order will require customers to wear masks in most forward-facing businesses, including restaurants, groceries, retail stores, pharmacies, hair salons, child care facilities, health care settings or “any indoor public space in which it is difficult to maintain a physical distance of at least six fee from all individuals who are not members of that person’s household,” the order reads. (It is embedded in full below.)
The order also requires masks in public transit and ride-sharing vehicles as well as in outdoor environments where social distancing is not possible.
Those with health conditions such as asthma are exempt from the mask order, according to the governor. Children under 5, those exercising while social distancing, those actively eating or drinking in a bar or restaurant and those alone in closed office settings are also exempt.
The order will last for 30 days and be enforced by local health departments “and others,” Beshear said. At the end of the 30 days, he explained he will review state data on cases, hospitalizations, positivity rate and deaths to determine whether it should be extended but stopped short of giving numerical benchmarks.
Noncompliant individuals could receive a fine, Beshear said. Businesses or restaurants that do not enforce the order could face “significant consequences.”
That is a departure from Cincinnati’s mask mandate, which gives businesses discretion not to serve people who are un-masked. Kentucky’s order appears to create an active legal duty for businesses to refuse service to violators.
Ohio’s order, which can be read in full here, does not mention a business’s right or duty to enforce the mandate against violators.
“I understand the CDC and the federal government told us different things,” Beshear said referencing conflicting guidance about the effectiveness of masks throughout the pandemic. “But that doesn’t get in the way of what the science tells us now (...) that a mask helps to stop the spread of COVID-19. It helps prevent other people from getting it from you, and now studies are showing it can help prevent you from getting the virus in the first place.”
The governor referenced scientific studies that allegedly show wearing a mask can decrease infection risk by almost 65 percent. The studies were not specifically cited during the presentation.
“The number one thing a mask can do is it can protect the life and health of those around you,” he said. “But the other thing it can do is help us to continue to reopen our economy.”
Beshear also referenced a Goldman Sachs report on the economic stakes of mask use nationwide. Extrapolating the report to Kentucky, the governor said $10.4 billion in GDP could be saved if Kentuckians adhere to the mask mandate.
“Everyone that wants our economy to stay open (...) ought to be wearing a mask every time they are in public,” he said.
Beshear’s Ohio counterpart, Gov. Mike DeWine has elected to hinge further pandemic actions on a color-coded advisory system rather than imposing statewide restrictions.
DeWine predicated a mask mandate in seven Ohio counties on that same advisory system Tuesday.
Beshear announced Northern Kentucky will have its first location where people with unresolved unemployment claims can make in-person appointments next week.
The temporary in-person office will be located at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington.
Appointments will be available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. They must be made in advance at kcc.ky.gov.
Northern Kentucky will also see another pop-up testing location next week.
The site will be located at Summit View Academy on 5006 Madison Pike in Independence, Ky.
Testing will be available Tuesday-Thursday.
The governor reported 333 new COVID-19 cases Thursday after 773 new cases were reported the previous two days, bringing the three-day tally to 1,106.
Beshear cautioned the increase is not yet at the level seen in “hot spot” states like Arizona and Florida but called the recent days’ reports “a real, significant escalation.”
“We are still in a battle,” he said, “and it is not going away.”
According to the daily case report, Kentucky has a positivity rate of 4.06 percent based on a rolling 7-day average. The positivity rate reflects the number of tests returned positive as a percent of all tests performed.
Thursday’s positivity rate is 3.2 percent, representing 333 newly reported cases on 10,305 newly reported tests.
Some 457 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with the virus, and 105 are in the ICU.
Four more Kentuckians have died from COVID-19, the governor said.
Of the state’s 18,245 total cases since the onset of the pandemic, 3,105 have come from long-term care facilities. The facilities also represent 397 of the state’s 612 total deaths.
Beshear also reported 40 percent of Kentucky’s hospital beds are unused, calling the figure one of the few pieces of good news in Thursday’s data.