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Jessamine responds to governor’s order

The line outside the Jessamine County Clerk’s Office last Friday stretched from the south to the north end of the courthouse a few hours before a governor’s order was to take effect requiring people to wear masks in public places.

Only about half of those in line were wearing one, and many paid no attention to the lines marked on the floor showing them where to stand to maintain six feet of distance between themselves and the next person.

Holly Adams of Nicholasville was wearing hers and keeping her distance.

“I don’t mind. I have to wear it at work anyway,” she said. “The worst thing is it’s a little uncomfortable.”

But she could put up with a little discomfort to protect others.

“My whole family is immunocompromised,” she said.

But Monty VanBlaricum didn’t think face coverings were going to do any good.

“You can’t stop the coronavirus,” he said. “You may slow it down, but for how long?”

Webster Reed had moved to the other side of the corridor rather than stand  in a crowd of people who were uncovered. He said he would feel more comfortable if others were wearing theirs.

County Clerk Johnny Collier, who was wearing a surgical mask while walking down the hallyway, didn’t have an opinion on the governor’s order.

“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me one way or the other,” he said. “But if it’s what the state wants, we’ll have to do whatever they ask.”

Just down the street at Nicholasville Café, owner Gertie Deeken, when asked whether she thought mask wearing should be mandatory inside restaurants and other public places, answered loudly enough for the man who was without a face covering to hear her.

“It should have been done from the beginning,” she said.

“I have health issues,” she said. “I just hope it works and everybody does what they’re supposed to be doing. If they had be doing that, we wouldn’t be where we are today. My honest opinion.”

The customer without a mask declined to comment.

Beshear announced the 30-day mandate last Thursday, to take effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Kentucky joined 22 other states that required face coverings.

According to the Governor’s Office, wearing a mask not only protects others but also lowers the risk of getting the infection oneself by an estimated 65 percent, according to health experts.

There are exemptions to the governor’s order for those with physical or mental conditions who would be encumbered by wearing a mask, or for children 5 and younger, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children 2 and older wear them.

Three million people in the United States have been infected with the virus, and more than 150,000 have died of it. Beshear said he was taking this step to prevent having to implement drastic measures like other states that have shut down businesses again after people and public officials ignored CDC recommendations and new infections and deaths soared.

“We worked too long and too hard and sacrificed too much to squander the gains we have made in this fight,” Beshear said.

Kentucky has had more than 18,000 cases and more than 600 deaths.

Florida has seen almost that many cases in a single day.

Jessamine County Public Health Director Randy Gooch said he supports the governor’s mandate.

“Until we get a vaccine or have some more reliable therapeutics to respond to COVID-19, we know that the preventative measures are the best things we have,” Gooch said, mentioning not only mask wearing, but also social distancing, sanitizing and handwashing.

“There is more and more evidence that masks help prevent people from spreading the disease, but protect people from acquiring the disease as well,” he said. “That’s why the masking component is so important.”

Masks need to be part of the public dress code for a little while, he said.

Gooch said health departments are going to be responsible for enforcing the mandate, but some of the details remain unclear.

Health departments can close businesses that aren’t following the rules.

“We don’t want to close any business out there. We just want to see compliance,” he said.

Another responsibility for the Health Department, he said, is educating the public and business owners about the illness and their responsibilities.

“We understand how challenging it is for businesses to enforce the masking rule themselves, but if everybody would just get on board and do their part, it would be much easier on everybody,” Gooch said. “We know it’s not forever; it’s just until … we can get on the other side of it.”

The same week Beshear announced his mandate, Scott Circuit Judge Brian Privett issued a temporary restraining order against the governor in a case involving Evans Orchard and Cider Mill in Georgetown that applied to other agribusinesses. In a decision March 6, Privett also said that before the governor could issue any public health order, he had to “specifically state the 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.”

Monday, Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Acree refused to stop Privett’s ruling and a ruling by Boone Circuit Judge Richard Bruegemann against Beshear’s COVID-19 executive orders.

Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl had not yet read Beshear’s order Friday, but said he thought the mask order could be unconstitutional.

There is a U.S. Supreme Court ruling pertaining to the wearing of Muslim hijabs and burkas that suggest governments can’t mandate what people wear or don’t wear on their faces.

Goettl was skeptical about the need for wearing masks, although he was preparing to require wearing them when his office reopened Monday.

“I think there is so much misinformation about the virus that it’s difficult to tell if this is or is not a good thing to do,” he said.

The county attorney said he also wanted some guidance from Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office regarding enforcement of the governor’s order.

“If the governor’s order is an unlawful order, it should be rescinded,” he said.

“Benevolent dictators tend to give up their benevolence before their dictatorship,” he said.

He then laughed and said he was not saying that the governor is a dictator.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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