Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order mandating that all Kentuckians must wear facial coverings in certain public situations starting 5 p.m. July 10, following days of continuous COVID-19 case spikes throughout the state.

All Kentuckians will be required to wear a facial covering or mask in certain public situations. Beshear announced the new mandate during his July 9 press conference.

“What this means is that all customers in retail facilities must wear a mask,” Beshear said. “In grocery stores, must wear a mask. In most (public)-facing businesses, must wear a mask. If you are indoors and you can’t get 6 feet from individuals on anything that’s not covered, must wear a mask. Outside, if you cannot be 6 feet away from another individual, must wear a mask.”

Beshear said the mandate will last for 30 days, and it will be enforced by local health departments and other people.

“It’s going to be as simple as, if someone doesn’t wear a mask in your place of business, then they cannot be served,” Beshear said. “If you’re going to a restaurant or bar and if you’re waiting in line outside, you gotta wear a mask and inside until you’re ready to eat or wearing one, too.”

However, he specified that families inside their homes and other places of residence will not need to wear masks when in those places together, and individuals who live alone will not need to wear a mask inside their residences. People who have breathing difficulties or physical disabilities where they cannot wear a mask will not need to wear one, and there will be an exemption for children under 5 years old. He said that people who exercise and engage in outdoor activities, like running or walking, and are staying 6 feet apart will also not need to wear a mask.

“But if you’re going to the grocery store, put one of these on and protect your fellow human being,” Beshear said. “I had hoped that we wouldn’t have to get to a point where we mandated things. I hoped that we’d all be willing to do the right thing, but I think the amount of time that we’ve dealt with this, our anxiety, cabin fever, all of it’s added up.”

Beshear said that the order was decided after cases of the virus have continued to escalate in Kentucky and have continued to surge across the country.

Statewide in Kentucky, as of July 9, 18,245 patients have tested positive for the virus, with 402 cases announced on July 8 and 331 new cases announced on July 9. 4,939 Kentuckians have recovered, and over 461,000 Kentuckians have been tested for the virus so far.

“It’s time to get serious,” Beshear said. “It’s time to stop our escalation now, and it’s time to get down to a reasonable plateau of cases.”

Four new deaths were also announced on July 9, making 612 total Kentuckians who have died from the virus so far, according to the state’s official COVID-19 website. One of those deaths included a 61 year-old male from Pike County, whose death was confirmed by the Pike County Health Department on July 7 and announced by Beshear during his July 9 press conference.

“It’s no longer a question,” Beshear said. “I understand that the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the federal government told us different things before, but that doesn’t get in the way of what the science tells us now. … A mask stops the spread of COVID. It protects other people from getting it from you, and now there are studies showing that it can protect you from getting this virus in the first place.”

Wearing a face mask is one of the primary ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in addition to proper social distancing (maintaining six feet of distance from others), frequent hand washing and other preventative actions.

The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years old and older wear a cloth face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community. Due to the danger of suffocation, people should not put cloth face coverings or masks on children who are younger than 2 years old.

Cloth face masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, can’t move or is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. According to the CDC, cloth face masks are not a substitute for social distancing (maintaining six feet of distance from others), frequent hand washing or other daily preventive actions.

Masks have already been mandated in at least 20 states — including California, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia, among others — as cases have spiked across the country. Particular hotspots for the virus have included Arizona, Texas and Florida. Masks have also been mandated in certain cities located in states like Tennessee and Georgia.

Beshear said this decision was also made to protect businesses from having to close due to the mandate’s ability to ensure that people will prevent the spread of the virus. He said he received requests from the National Retail Federation and Kentucky Retail Association that urged the state to mandate masks in order to help keep retail businesses open and protect both customers and employees from COVID-19.

Beshear said the mandate will help protect people from catching the virus and will stop cases from spiking even more, which has caused economic reopening plans to pause in other states, like Texas. He said this mandate will help Kentucky not have to shut down public facilities and businesses again.

“The reason that we’ve done so well is because we took early aggressive action,” Beshear said, referring to Kentucky’s low cases. “We all bought in, and we did it together. We are at that same moment before, but we don’t have to shut everything down if we will all follow these instructions and wear a facial covering in these circumstances where it can spread.”

Beshear said he is willing to receive criticism on the mandate because he believes that it relates to Kentuckians wanting to help one another and coming together “for the greater good.”

“Wearing a mask makes a lot of sense. Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so,” Beshear said. “It’s no longer voluntary. It’s mandatory, and I’m willing to take whatever criticism comes from that.”

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