Health

With coronavirus cases rising again in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer said he wants face masks to be required in public.

Fischer said during a Thursday morning briefing that he would “absolutely” considering implementing a mask mandate in Louisville if the state doesn’t, and if cases continue to rise.

Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to introduce “mandatory” requirements, which could include masks, for Kentucky this afternoon.

“It sends an unequivocal message that, you know, please, wear your mask,” he said. “And more will wear masks as a result of that. And eventually social pressure, I hope, will get to a point where more people will wear a mask, it’s the right thing to do.”

States including Texas and California, which in recent weeks have seen a major spike in cases now require masks in public. But such rules are not always enforced.

Fischer said he would love to see a federal mandate for mask wearing, but he doesn’t expect one. If there were a Louisville ordinance, he said it could be enforced through citations, but that the goal is to encourage people to wear masks.

“As time has gone on, it seems like there is less resistance to mask,” he said. “I mean, there’s always going to be a hardcore group against, but people seem to be understanding why we want people to wear a mask.”

Sarah Moyer, the city’s chief health strategist, agreed with that assessment.

“There’s more and more evidence about how it works to help the spread as well, too. And I think, it’s much like anything new: Once you start doing it and get used to it, the easier it is,” Moyer said.

Louisville officials reported an increase of almost 500 cases and eight deaths in the past week, for a total of nearly 4,400 cases and 219 deaths.

Those deaths account for more than a third of all coronavirus-related fatalities in Kentucky.

The state has reported several high single-day increases in case numbers this week, as figures continue to rise in much of the U.S.

Fischer said about 73% of Louisvillians confirmed to have COVID-19 have recovered.

In Louisville, cases are increasing fastest among white people and among 20 to 44-year-olds.

“In many ways it feels like March again,” Moyer said. “Cases are rising, we’re hearing about corona parties, people are traveling again, and I am telling everyone to wash their hands again.”

The officials cautioned that Louisville residents should limit contacts, wear masks in public and wash their hands frequently.

Fischer said there has been a slight increase in hospitalizations in recent weeks. At the moment, there are 69 people hospitalized, and 14 in the ICU. Moyer said there is plenty of capacity in Louisville ICUs.

They also said that while testing capacity has increased locally, so has demand. Moyer said tests are being prioritized for individuals with symptoms again.

“Just because you’ve traveled or decided to go to a bar or a crowded place, and now worried that you might have COVID doesn’t mean you need a test,” Moyer said.

Fischer said he has seen some bars that are too crowded. He said citizens and business owners are responsible for adhering to guidelines, and that the city is stepping up enforcement by citing businesses.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.