Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order requiring masks or facial coverings for the next 30 days.
The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and will require patrons to wear masks in forward-facing business like restaurants, grocery stores and retail outlets. The order also requires the use of masks outside where social distancing is not possible.
For now, the executive order is slated to be in effect for 30 days and enforced by local health departments and others. At the end of the 30 days, Beshear said that he will review the data on cases, hospitalizations, positivity rates and death rates to determine if the executive order should be extended.
“This is our time,” he said. “We are starting this early enough that we have a real shot if we can get people across Kentucky to wear masks. If they don’t, we will have to reduce capacity and will have issues opening schools. This is what we will face. Everyone’s actions have consequences. If you aren’t willing to do that, we wont be able to do so many things. This is our moment to beat the virus. We can quit and walk off and lose the game or get back to the hard work and hustle to do what it takes to win the game.”
While both Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson and Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly both staunchly believe that people should be wearing masks while in public, one of the major issues with the governor’s order is that it is just another in a long line of unfunded state mandates, Watson said.
“Some simply can’t afford or don’t have access to masks,” he said. “With a statewide mandate, the governor should provide the masks for the 100,000 people of Owensboro-Daviess County. He needs to make some effort to get masks to people that don’t have the means or finances or provide funding for masks. Al (Mattingly) did a great job of providing masks that helped many of our businesses be able to open. If it comes from on high, then they need to fund it and ensure people have access.”
While Beshear has put area health departments and “others” in charge of enforcing the order on the local level, the fundamental issue is that it is a mandate that is unenforceable, Mattingly said.
“Our sheriff doesn’t have the men necessary to enforce compliance, and I assume the same can be said for the Owensboro Police Department,” he said. “I am in agreement that masks are key. They are not meant to protect me, they are meant to protect those around me. I wear it in consideration for the health and well being of those around me.”
The reality as numbers continue to climb in the commonwealth and around the nation is that once people were allowed out of their homes and left to their own volition, they quickly shed the lessons of the past few months and disregarded protocols, leading to the rise in positive cases. So what is the answer? Look out for your fellow man, Mattingly said.
“That is the real solution,” he said. “We don’t have treatment, we don’t have a vaccine. This leaves masks, social distancing, sanitizing and following the guidelines as our weapons in this battle. The statement I hear constantly is, ‘I have rights and you shouldn’t make me do this, I am an adult.’ The reality is if we all acted that way and lived up to our responsibilities to each other, we wouldn’t need near as many laws, would we? Mother nature will not be contained, that is all I can tell you. Human beings tire, we get tired of lots of things. When we get tired, we get cranky, and when we get mean, no one tells us what to do. Human nature is our own worst enemy, especially in facing the pandemic.”
Like Mattingly, Watson believes in masks and that any step toward normalcy is going to be led by the actions of the people, he said.
“It is consumer driven,” he said. “If people want to get to the next stage of reopening, they will do what it takes. ... If they want to keep things moving forward, they will wear the masks and maintain. If people are going to refuse to wear the masks, then restrictions will only continue to tighten until they comply. I think those that refuse to wear masks have gotten confused in that they think it only affects them. That is not the case. The mask protects those around you from you. If you have access, the decent thing to do is to wear it and protect your fellow man. That is the bottom line.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org