September 19, 2021

Beshear mandates mask for Kentucky state buildings, workers

2 min read

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s order for state workers and visitors to state buildings to wear masks in public areas took effect Thursday. However, at least three Republican statewide officials said their offices would not follow the Democratic chief executive’s decree.

Beshear made the announcement to state workers through a video Wednesday afternoon and cited the new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding who should wear masks and where they should be worn. 

The CDC now advises all individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces in communities where COVID-19 is spreading at a significant rate. That includes people who are fully vaccinated as health officials noted those individuals still can spread the delta variant to others.

“That changes a lot,” the governor said. “It puts our workforce at risk. It puts your health at risk, and it puts at risk our ability to provide services that are desperately needed in-person to the people of the commonwealth.”

Beshear, a Democrat, said the move was needed to keep the delta variant, a highly transmissible strain of the virus, from spreading. 

He also said he wanted “to set the right example” for other employers in the state.

However, at least three state offices overseen by elected Republicans have said they will not follow the mask requirement.

The Office of State Auditor Mike Harmon said in a statement that since the majority of employees in the Frankfort office are vaccinated then “masks will be considered optional for employees and visitors” to that office.

Most of the auditor’s office staff, the statement said, telecommute.

“When those workers go on-site to a state or local government office building that requires a mask, we expect them to comply with that policy,” the auditor’s statement added.

Besides Harmon, who has announced plans to run for governor in 2023, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Thursday morning the Department of Agriculture and the Office of State Treasurer also would not comply.

On Thursday, Beshear said employees under different constitutional officers would not face punishment for not abiding by the policy. However, he said they run the risk of increasing the spread.

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, another potential gubernatorial candidate, said in a series of tweets Wednesday the availability of vaccines should put an end to mask requirements.

“The CDC’s announcement earlier this week, followed up by a mandate by the Beshear Administration to state employees, that even vaccinated people should wear masks, will undermine confidence in the vaccine at a time when it is needed most,” Quarles said.

However, neither Harmon nor Quarles came out and said more people need to get vaccinated. In a statement issued Wednesday, Harmon encouraged the unvaccinated to discuss with their health care provider if a vaccine was their best option, and Quarles emphasized the vaccines were a personal choice.

This article was originally posted on Beshear mandates mask for Kentucky state buildings, workers

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