Health

Kentuckians are being urged to follow the state’s mask mandate as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise around the country.

At Monday’s press conference, Gov. Andy Beshear said it’s important for a critical mass of citizens to wear face masks and practice social distancing over the next two to three weeks. Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in other states over the past several days, with new records being set for daily reported cases.

Beshear expressed concern that failure to prevent further spread could result in an upending of Kentucky’s reopening process – a position other states have already been put in as they face rising case totals.

“Multiple states [are] now rolling back their reopening,” he said. “I don’t want that to be us. I hope you don’t either.”

Opposition to the mask mandate was compared to pushback against seat belt laws that arose in the 1960s. Beshear said many of the arguments being used today mirror those that were used then. 

The difference, Beshear noted, is that the decision not to wear a seat belt would only result in the death of the person who chooses not to comply with the law.

“Your decision not to wear a mask may result in other people dying,” he said. “I consider this wearing a mask more like a DUI law, where you say you can’t do something, where you could potentially harm somebody else, or even driving on the right as opposed to the left side of the road.”

Also on Monday, appeals court judge Glenn Acree struck down efforts from the Beshear administration to rein in businesses unwilling to comply with the state’s guidelines for reopening the economy in the middle of a pandemic.

The ruling allows more than 500 businesses in the agritourism industry including farmers markets and distilleries to operate without safety requirements, and day care centers to choose their own class sizes.

While acknowledging the risks the virus poses, Acree says the innate wisdom and common sense of Kentuckians has helped Kentucky rank among states with the lowest number of cases.

“Not everything the Governor conveys in his heartfelt messages has the force of law, nor is such force necessary when his constituents’ good sense and good natures, and his own leadership, suffice,” Acree wrote. 

On Monday evening, Beshear reported 277 new cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky, bringing the total to 19,653. The governor said he expects a higher number of cases tomorrow.

Fayette County saw the most new cases at 78, with Jefferson County reporting 27. The governor said the 7-day positivity rate sits at 4.35%, a number higher than seen in previous weeks.

Despite the increase in cases, Beshear reported that ICU and ventilator capacities are in “good shape.”

Reporter Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this story.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.