Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that he has signed an executive order mandating that masks be worn in public.
During a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Beshear said the order will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
All customers at retail establishments, grocery stores, restaurants and forward–facing businesses will be required to wear a mask unless the individual has a health-related reason for not doing so, or individuals are able to be at least six feet apart.
Beshear said the order would be enforced by local health departments. However, businesses will be able to enforce it by refusing to serve those without a mask.
“It is time to stop the escalation,” Beshear said noting that multiple states have seen a severe spike in the number of COVID–19 cases.
Beshear said while Kentucky still has a comfortable cushion in the number of available hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators, other states are dealing with shortages.
He played a clip featuring a doctor in Texas who described how he was forced to choose three people from among 10 who needed a ventilator.
In addition, Beshear said wearing masks may allow officials to avoid being forced to order businesses to close their doors to stop another spike in the number of COVID–19 cases.
“We don’t want to have to shut everything down,” Beshear added.
Beshear said 22 states already have some type of mandate in place and both the National Retail Federation and the Chamber of Commerce have encouraged officials to institute a mandate.
Beshear said the executive order will expire in 30 days and the results will be reviewed to determine if it has resulted in lower numbers.
Beshear said four new COVID–19 related deaths have been reported Thursday, including a 94-year-old in Knox County.
“We are starting to see it everywhere,” Beshear said of the virus noting that counties, which had initially seen few, if any, cases, such as Bell County, were experiencing a spike.
“We are starting to see a real increase,” Beshear said.
While some fall sports have already been cancelled in some parts of the country, such as the Ivy League, Beshear said taking this action to slow the spread gives Kentucky an opportunity so that fall sports might still occur.