Kentucky state officials refuse to enforce virus mask rule

Jul 29, 2021, 2:37 PM | Updated: 3:19 pm
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.,...

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Beshear has announced that roughly 200 Kentucky National Guard members will deploy to the southwestern U.S. border in late 2021 as part of a federal government mission. The soldiers will provide operational and logistics support. The deployment is part of a federal border security mission that includes 23 states. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

(Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear defended his mask requirement for state workers Thursday, brushing off criticism by state GOP officials who announced that they would not enforce the mandate in their offices.

“Listen, I care more about my people than my popularity. I got the backbone to do what’s right for them and I wish other people did too,” a clearly irritated Democratic governor told reporters. “At some point you got to do the right thing for your people and not try to score political points.”

Beshear said he isn’t able to take disciplinary action against workers in the Department of Agriculture, the office of the state treasurer, the Legislative Research Commission or the state auditor’s office who don’t wear masks, but he warned that they “face a much higher likelihood that they get COVID and they get really sick” if they don’t.

Beshear issued the order for state workers and visitors to any state building Wednesday, prompted by a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases accelerated by the highly contagious delta variant. The state’s test positivity rate — which had dipped below 2% on July 1 — was 8.29% on Wednesday.

In response to Beshear, three of the four agencies said Thursday they will not enforce the governor’s new mask requirement. Those three are run by Republicans chosen in statewide elections. The fourth agency, the LRC , which is co-chaired by the Senate President and House Speaker in the General Assembly, where the GOP holds substantial majorities in both chambers, also said it would not enforce the rule, media outlets report.

All four agencies have offices in Franklin County, which is an area with “substantial” spread of the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county has a daily incidence rate of 17.7 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, up from 1.4 on July 1, according to reports from Kentucky’s Department of Health.

Federal guidance recommends those living in an area of substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles fired off a tweet Wednesday evening at the new requirement, proposing that it would “undermine confidence in the vaccine at a time when it is needed most.”

“These decisions are giving Kentuckians whiplash,” said Quarles, who is considered a potential rival to Beshear in his bid for a second term in 2023. “First no mask, then mask. Short term measures turn into long term shutdowns. Our people have Kentucky common sense and are more likely to be persuaded by reason than by threats or mandates,” he added.

The governor’s mandate also will be voluntary at State Auditor Mike Harmon’s office.

“Because the majority of state employees who work regularly in our Frankfort office are vaccinated, and can also social distance in their individual workspaces, masks will be considered optional for employees and visitors to our Frankfort office,” Harmon’s spokesman, Michael Goins, said in a statement.

__

Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE  - Nobel Peace Prize winners Dmitry Muratov from Russia, right, and Maria Ressa of the Philipp...
Associated Press

2021 Nobel Peace Prize winners have faced a year of battles

WASHINGTON (AP) — Winning the Nobel Peace Prize often provides a boost for a grassroots activist or international group working for peace and human rights, opening doors and elevating the causes for which they fight. But it doesn’t always work out that way. For the two journalists who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Dutch court orders government to improve migrant centers

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court on Thursday ordered the government and its asylum-seeker accommodation agency to significantly improve conditions at overcrowded and unsanitary emergency migrant housing facilities. The ruling by a civil court in The Hague came in a summary case brought by the Dutch Council for Refugees amid an ongoing crisis […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Amazon to hire 150,000 workers for holidays

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon will hire 150,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees across its warehouses ahead of the holiday season. The announcement, made Thursday, shows the e-commerce behemoth is taking a less conservative approach to its holiday planning than Walmart, which said last month it would hire 40,000 U.S. workers for the holidays, compared […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski speaks during the unveiling of the Tadeusz Kosciuszko ...
Associated Press

Heart infection could be cause of death of Polish, US hero

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Medical and genetics experts in Poland say that a heart infection caused by a common skin bacteria could have caused the 1817 death of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish and U.S. military leader and national hero. The experts said last month they found the genome of the Cutibacterium acne in the wax, […]
8 hours ago
FILE - A logo for Amazon is displayed on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, July 27, 2018. Amazon i...
Associated Press

Fire reported at another Amazon warehouse in New York

A fire broke out late Wednesday evening at an Amazon facility in upstate New York that’s voting in a union election next week. The fire at the warehouse, located near Albany in the town of Schodack, began around 10:50pm and lasted until shortly after midnight, according to the Schodack Police Department. In a prepared statement, […]
8 hours ago
FILE - This Nov. 19, 2019 photo shows a Peloton logo on the company's stationary bicycle in San Fra...
Associated Press

Peloton to cut 500 jobs as turnaround efforts continue

Peloton is looking to trim hundreds of jobs as the company continues to reorganize its business which has stalled as the coronavirus-related surge fades. The maker of high-end exercise equipment plans to cut approximately 500 jobs, or about 12% of its workforce. “A key aspect of Peloton’s transformation journey is optimizing efficiencies and implementing cost […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Kentucky state officials refuse to enforce virus mask rule