Kentucky to mandate masks in public amid 'explosion' of coronavirus

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) says the state will require all residents to wear masks in public for 30 days, beginning Friday, citing an "explosion" of cases of COVID-19.

“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 in a press briefing Thursday, citing exemptions for children under 5 and people with health conditions such as asthma.

The mask mandate, he said, would apply to most forward-facing businesses such as retailers and restaurants, as well as outdoor spaces where social distancing is impossible.

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“I understand the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the federal government told us different things” about masks’ effectiveness, Beshear said. “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 you stop from getting the virus in the first place.”

“We’re starting to see a real increase in Kentucky,” he noted, describing the mask order as essential to keep the cases from continuing to rise beyond the state’s control. Kentucky reported 333 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to at least 18,245.

“To folks that say ‘we’re not Arizona, we’re not Florida, we’re not Texas’… they weren’t at one point either,” Beshear said, noting that Arizona’s cases had increased exponentially since a time when it and Kentucky had a comparable amount.

“All of these states thought they had everything under control,” he said.

Beshear vowed to review state data on infections, positivity rates, mortality and hospitalizations once the 30-day period is over. Failure to comply could result in a fine, he added.