Health Kentucky Politics

Gov. Andy Beshear says that officials will be more aggressively enforcing Kentucky’s mask mandate at businesses and restaurants as the state continues to experience an escalation of coronavirus cases.

Beshear also renewed the mask requirement, which initially went into effect on July 10.

Beshear said that inspectors from the state’s Department of Public Protection, Labor Cabinet and Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would be stepping up their oversight of the mandate.

“You could have your business shut down for a period of time, you could be fined, you can just have a conversation where you say, ‘Okay, we’ll get it done,’ and you know they’re going to be checking back in,” Beshear said during his daily update on Tuesday.

Kentucky is experiencing an uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases; last week the state logged its highest weekly number of cases and Beshear said that record could be broken again this week.

Beshear announced 1,054 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. Children under 18 accounted for 144 of those cases.

There were four new deaths associated with the virus, bringing the state’s total to 1,218.

Beshear encouraged local leaders to help enforce the mask mandate and business owners to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.

“I know that’s a hardship on some businesses that are going to have some people that are angry. But it’s not the businesses’ fault. I put the mask mandate in. All they’re doing is enforcing it. And they can tell that individual that they need to do that to protect their business. Because we need that to happen,” Beshear said.

Beshear’s update came shortly after President Donald Trump announced over Twitter that he had called off negotiations for a new coronavirus relief package before the November election and instead encouraged the U.S. Senate to focus on approving his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he supports Trump’s decision and that lawmakers “needed to concentrate on what’s achievable.”

Beshear, who has repeatedly called for the relief package, said that he disagreed with Trump and McConnell’s decision.

“We’re in the midst of a pandemic and we’re going to pause for a confirmation?” Beshear asked. “If they can’t sit down and agree to a package that helps Kentuckians and helps Americans during this, shame on them.”

The latest coronavirus relief bill has been debated in Congress since the Democratic-led U.S. House passed its version in May. McConnell unveiled a Republican version in late July, but it didn’t get enough support to pass out of the Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.