Beshear says return to ‘old normal’ possible if Kentuckians follow mask mandate

Gov. Beshear holds press briefing as mask mandate takes effect in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear reported Friday Kentucky has 426 new cases of COVID-19.

It’s a count the governor called Kentucky’s second-highest ever, with the highest coming on a day when he reported all confirmed cases from an outbreak in a state prison.

Together with reports from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Kentucky’s four-day tally of new cases stands at 1,532, an increase of 9 percent in the state’s total case count since the onset of the pandemic.

The governor cautioned, as he has done previously, that Kentucky is not yet experiencing the sort of surge seen in states like Arizona and Florida. But citing an anecdote from Phoenix’s mayor, who said Friday morning the city had to order a so-called “morgue truck,” Beshear warned against complacency in the commonwealth.

“This could easily be us if we do not take action or if people frustrate our attempts to take action,” he said, later adding, “I need you to wear a mask.”

Beshear announced yesterday an executive order to require masks or facial coverings in certain situations statewide. The order took effect Friday at 5 p.m.

In his Friday briefing, Beshear reaffirmed individuals can be fined for not wearing masks and that businesses, including grocery stores, cannot serve a person who is not wearing a mask.

He said the order will be enforced by local health departments monitoring high-traffic areas but added the best mechanism for enforcement will be to empower businesses, such as bars, with the ability to deny service.

Beshear ended his discussion of mask use on a positive note following a question about a professional soccer match at which 5,000 people are expected to attend. He said the match can continue provided people wear masks and practice social distancing.

“I actually believe if we can follow the mask mandate, we can do a lot of the things we are not doing right now. What we need is about 80 percent of Kentuckians following this, and our old normal will become pretty close to possible,” he said.

The governor also reported eight virus-related deaths Friday.

Three of the deaths were people in their sixties, prompting Beshear to respond to those who would say the virus only affects the very old and therefore doesn’t warrant restrictive measures to fight it: “Don’t be callous,” Beshear said. “Our job is to protect people.”

Additionally, the governor responded to a popular notion among critics of his measures, that the state is only seeing more cases because it is testing more. He pointed to the state’s positivity rate, which on a rolling 7-day basis has increased from 2.4 percent at the end of June to 4.5 percent at present.

“If the numbers were only up because testing is up, the positivity rate would be the same,” Beshear said.

“It’s not a claim. It’s not an argument. It’s a fact, that we are having an increase in COVID cases that is not attributable simply to testing. I love that we are doing more testing, but more people are testing positive.”

No data on hospitalizations or ICU admissions was available Friday as the state retools how it collects data from healthcare providers, Beshear said.

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