EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the dates of in-person unemployment assistance in Covington. The appointments are July 14 and 15.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear reported 426 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the second-highest one-day case count in Kentucky so far. The report came an hour before a statewide mask mandate went into effect at 5 p.m.
Beshear announced he signed the executive order at a press briefing Thursday in response to the state's "rising numbers" of COVID-19 cases over the last four to six days.
Masks now required in public
Masks will be required on public transit and in most indoor spaces, including grocery stores, retail stores, forward-facing businesses and anywhere that people cannot distance at least six feet apart, even outdoors. People must wear masks while waiting in line or while inside restaurants and bars, taking them off only when seated to eat or drink.
There are several exceptions to the order, including for:
- Children age 5 or younger.
- People who have medical conditions that would make wearing a mask too difficult.
- People exercising in an indoor gym or sports facility, provided they are keeping six feet apart from others.
- People participating in an athletic practice, scrimmage or competition permitted under a separate state health order.
- People seated and "actively consuming" food or drink at bars and restaurants.
- People swimming in pools, lakes or other bodies of water.
- People who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or trying to communicate with someone who needs to see mouth movements.
- People engaged in work that a state or federal regulator has concluded would be made dangerous by wearing a mask.
- People obtaining a service where they need to remove their mask to receive it, or if they are being screened for identity or security purposes (like showing an ID while buying alcohol or tobacco).
- People giving a speech or public broadcast where they can remain at least six feet from others.
Local health departments will enforce the order. For individuals, enforcement will start with a warning that may result in a fine after repeated violations, though Beshear did not specify what type of fine.
Businesses must also ask people inside their establishments to put on a mask or refuse service. Beshear said businesses may also face fines if they do not enforce the order. The mandate comes after the National Retail Federation and the Kentucky Retail Association called for Beshear to mandate masks so that those businesses can stay open at 50% capacity.
"It's going to as simple as, if someone won't wear a mask in your place of business, then they cannot be served. It's that simple," he said.
According to Beshear, the order will run for 30 days, and state leaders may renew it based on where case numbers are at the end of that time.
Read the full executive order in the viewer below:
Ky. case numbers
Beshear said daily case counts previously ranged from 120 to 330 new cases a day, but those numbers have skewed to the higher end of that range in the last few days. Beshear compared that to states like Arizona, which before spiking to several hundred or 1,000 cases per day saw similar numbers to Kentucky after reopening places of business.
Beshear reported 426 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the second-highest one-day case count in Kentucky so far. The state's positivity rate, which is based on a seven-day average of positive tests out of total tests, almost doubled from 2.47% to 4.5% in two weeks.
Beshear also reported eight virus-related deaths on Friday, and Kentucky reports 620 total coronavirus-related deaths out of 18,670 virus cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Roughly 5,200 people have recovered from the virus, and the state has tested 470,548 people as of Friday.
NKY Health reports that 1,828 people in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties have tested positive for coronavirus since March and 78 people have died of the virus as of Thursday.
Beshear, who said one of his main concerns is that coronavirus could overwhelm the state's medical centers, reported that out of the state's hospital beds, 11,243 are currently occupied and 7,309 are available (60% occupancy).
Beshear also announced that a pop-up Kroger Health testing site will open July 13 through July 16 at Summit View Academy, 5006 Madison Pike, Independence. Sign up online for a testing slot here.
Judge orders Beshear to stop making executive orders
Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced his office filed a motion Friday asking the judge to consider whether the mask mandate complies with the current temporary restraining order "stopping enforcement of COVID-19 executive orders that are not in compliance with state law."
"To be clear, the request we are making to the court today is not about whether or not it is appropriate to wear a mask," Cameron said in a statement. "It is my belief that masks are an important tool in fighting this pandemic. It is, however, about determining if the Governor’s executive order mandating mask use follows state law. As the chief law officer for the Commonwealth, it is my duty to raise this question before the court and ensure that the law is followed.”
Cameron announced on Thursday that a Scott Circuit Judge ordered Gov. Andy Beshear to cease issuing or enforcing executive orders related to COVID-19 unless the orders meet specific criteria for an emergency as outlined by state law, according to WCPO media partner LEX18.
The judge stated in order to issue and enforce COVID-19 executive orders, Beshear must specify the state of emergency that requires the order, the location of the emergency, and the name of the local emergency management agency that has determined that the emergency is beyond its capabilities.
COVID-19 in childcare centers
Health and Family Services Sec. Eric Friedlander said Friday that children and staff in daycares statewide have been affected by rising coronavirus numbers.
As of Friday, 13 centers have reported coronavirus cases with 15 staff and seven children testing positive for the virus.
Over 450 daycare centers have not reopened yet, though “the vast majority have,” Friedlander said. To curb the spread, the state is asking centers to limit class sizes and wear masks to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus.
“If you want to keep the economy open,wear a mask. If you want to be sure we can have sports in the fall, wear a mask. If you want to protect your loved ones and your families, wear a mask,” Friedlander said.
Budget, unemployment assistance update
For those still waiting on claims or who need to file for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kentucky will set up three in-person help centers around the state next week. One of these sites at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington will offer services by appointment only from July 14 through July 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sign up for an appointment at www.kcc.ky.gov.
Those waiting to hear back for unemployment assistance may receive a phone call from (502) 333-9130. Beshear said that number cannot be called back, so pick up if you receive a call from this number. Roughly 50% of calls from that number go unanswered, the governor said Friday.
In addition, over $36.2 million in CARES Act funding will be rerouted to 61 local health departments as they grapple with a rise in new COVID-19 case numbers. The funding will help with projected payroll expenses, contractual service costs, travel, and medical supplies that these health departments are expected to incur in during their pandemic response.
Watch a replay of Friday's briefing in the player below: