Green River District Health Department intends to work with Owensboro-Daviess County businesses to meet Gov. Andy Beshear’s 30-day executive order declaring face coverings mandatory, while encouraging residents to do their part in stunting the spread of COVID-19.

When it comes to enforcing the order, Beshear said Friday that the best way is to let businesses refuse service to customers who don’t wear masks. He’s asking public health department officials across the state to frequent high-traffic areas to ensure the public complies. And the governor said he expects law enforcement officers to approach people who don’t wear masks.

Locally, “We will handle the business end of it,” Green River District Health Department director Clay Horton said. “We are expecting additional guidance from the state on what their plan is for enforcing the order. We prefer to work with the businesses and they will self-regulate. Their employees are wearing masks and they will want to further protect their patrons and employees. This is an extension of policies they have already adopted. This is one of the better strategies that we can have. My hope is that businesses will welcome this order for their own self-interest and the self-interest of their employees and customers.”

Horton’s hope is that, now that there is more “black and white” guidance, businesses will comply. Given that the order is difficult to enforce on the law enforcement level, Horton expects that the community and businesses will aid in informing the department about violations and working to keep each other safe.

“We will be focusing on the types of businesses that we regulate,” he said. “We will need the cooperation of the community to educate and make sure that people are aware of the requirements. I can tell you that I won’t be doing business at establishments where people aren’t wearing masks, and I am not in the minority. People want to be comfortable being out, and that is the way to do it.”

In terms of businesses concerned about losing sales because some consumers don’t wish to wear a mask, Horton believes those who enforce the order will see more business.

“It is all about protecting people, and I truly believe that those businesses that enforce the order will attract more business to their stores,” he said. “I think the important message in all of this is that we need everyone to do their part. I believe most people want this, and if it become normal behavior, the responsibility will be on those not in compliance and not the other way around.”

While some have voiced concern about not having access to masks, the creation of homemade masks via a modified T-shirt or bandannas is perfectly acceptable under the order, Horton said.

Beginning next week, Daviess Fiscal Court will begin another round of mask handouts for local businesses with the hope, in part, that businesses will provide them to those entering their establishments, said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.

“I don’t want to see the mask police,” he said. “We have few tools to combat this, and it would be foolish not to utilize them. As more come on board, the better it will be in the long run. In large part, this will be up to the businesses to regulate. For many, the (governor’s executive order) will not change what they are doing because they are already doing it. We expect to make an announcement about mask distribution on Monday.”

Messenger-Inquirer reporter Renee Beasley-Jones contributed to this story.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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