Beshear raises hope mask mandate might be starting to help

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear expressed hope that a fairly stable number of coronavirus cases reported Tuesday in Kentucky signals his mask-wearing mandate might be “starting to kick in and help.”

Beshear reported 532 more confirmed virus cases in the state, up by 10 cases from the previous day but below the 10-day average. The state's positivity rate — reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — dropped for the first time in four days, the governor said.

He also reported 10 more virus-related deaths, raising the state's death count to 719.

The Democratic governor has taken several steps — which he says are backed by federal health officials — to try to slow a recent surge of virus cases. Those actions include a mandate he announced nearly three weeks ago that most people wear masks in public.

“Again too early to draw conclusions, but I hope ... that this is us starting to see, because the time period is right, where the facial covering requirement is starting to kick in and help,” he said in commenting on the daily number of cases.

Beshear stressed that wearing masks offers the “best way to get back to our old normal, or something close to it.” The governor indicated Monday that Kentuckians should be prepared for the mask mandate to be extended. He has warned that an unwillingness by people to follow health guidelines threatens lives, the economy and efforts to reopen schools.

On Monday, Beshear ordered Kentucky bars to close and restaurants to scale back indoor service in what he hopes will be short-term steps to stop the spike in cases. The Bluegrass State was hit recently by a series of record or near-record numbers of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The governor also reduced the number of people allowed at social gatherings from 50 to 10. That rule doesn’t apply to businesses or wedding venues.

On Tuesday, he also stressed that people should cancel trips to states being ravaged by the virus.

“At this time, when we’re losing more people, when we know we’re going to lose more people, when we’ve got to get control of this, I’m still learning that folks are going to the beach in a place like Florida,” Beshear said.

He issued an advisory last week for Kentuckians traveling to a number of hot spot states. People traveling to those places are recommended to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

Beshear said Tuesday that he talked to people this week who changed their plans and will instead vacation at Kentucky Lake. He said that “both helps our economy but it’s also the right thing to do.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.

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