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Beshear sees ‘good compliance’ with mask order despite media reports, offers a poll showing most Kentucky voters agree with it

By MELISSA PATRICK and AL CROSS

Kentucky Health News

 

Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday that he’s encouraged by compliance with his order to wear a mask to thwart the coronavirus — confidence bolstered by a poll showing majorities of Kentuckians in both political parties favor it.

Asked if they support “requiring people to wear a mask in indoor places such as grocery stores, schools, retail stores, and certain outdoor places, such as mass gatherings,” 73 percent said they did and 23% said they didn’t.

“This is what the American people and the people of Kentucky want to see from their neighbors,” Beshear said. “So remember, when you are wearing a mask, you are a part of an overwhelming percentage of Kentuckians that know that this is what we have got to do.”

Beshear said the “broken system of social media” allows small groups to look like majorities and even lead news coverage of issues. Television coverage of his order has focused on controversies around it.

Beshear issued the order Thursday, July 9, and it took effect at 5 p.m. The memo from the pollster said it was taken July 7-10, among 601 “likely general-election voters,” via cell phones and landlines. That would give it an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll was funded by the state Democratic Party, which responded to a request to Beshear’s office for information about it. It did not reply to further questions, but provided a memo from the pollster, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group of Washington, D.C., a leading Democratic survey firm that has polled in Kentucky for decades.

The memo said 95% of Democrats, 66% of independents, 59% of Republicans and 56% of conservatives favored the requirement. Also, 63% said “the worst is yet to come in terms of the coronavirus’ effect on Kentucky’s public health and economy, compared to just 21% who say the worst is behind.” No breakdown of those figures was provided.

The memo said the poll found that 69% approved of  Beshear’s handling of the pandemic, and 25% disapproved.

“We are more united, I think, than anyone might have known,” Beshear said. He said the numbers are reflected in “really good compliance” with his order. “I’m really grateful to the response we’re seeing.”

However, Grace Finerman of Lexington’ s WKYT-TV reported earlier in the day, “Experts say may in the commonwealth are still not listening to the governor’s mandate.” Lexington-Fayette County Health Department spokesman Kevin Hall told her that he saw more people wearing masks over the weekend, but many still enter businesses without them, and some will never wear them.

Beshear said the issue “had the same history of arguments” as seat belts, the difference being “Your decision not to wear a mask may result in other people dying” and is more like driving drunk or on the wrong side of the road.

Beshear issued his order as the state’s weekly case numbers were rising by 49 percent. Noting that some states are rolling back some of their re-openings, he said, “We do not want to do that here in the commonwealth. So, what do we have to do? What are the actions that we have to take to protect our economy, to the creation or bringing back all of these jobs? . . . It’s pretty simple: Wear a facial covering. . . . It’s now a scientific fact: wearing a mask protects you [and] makes it less likely you will get the virus. It also keeps you from spreading the virus to other people.”

He showed a video of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams calling on everyone to wear a mask, and said, “All the experts agree. If we get a critical mass of people wearing mask, we continue to social distance and we remember it,  then we can get pretty close to our old normal.”

The governor said Bell, Carroll, Graves and Shelby counties all posted major growths in cases in the past week, with Carroll County leading with a 47% increase in cases July 3-11.

CovidActNow estimates that Bell and Graves counties have infection-transmission rates of 2.06 and 1.42, meaning that every 100 infected people are infecting 206 other people in Bell County and another 142 people in Graves County. It estimates Hardin County’s transmission rate to be 1.47 and Casey County’s to be 1.80.

Statewide, it estimates Kentucky’s rate to be 1.23. RT.live estimates it to be 1.21. Health officials like to keep the rate below 1.1.

Beshear said limiting activities in hotspot counties “is certainly on the table, and if county judges there are interested in it, I certainly want to talk to them.”

He said that even in such counties, “a critical mass of masks” can reverse the trend. He said it would take about 10 days to see the effect of his order, and “The next two weeks, the next 30 days, are critical.”

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said the rise in cases resembles the first big hill of a roller coaster “You feel that sudden lurch when the chain kicks in. That’s where we are right now. We’re starting to climb, and the question is, how tall is that first hill. You can impact how tall that first hill is.”

He added,  “It’s not too late. Wear these masks and keep that hill small. Because that hill means people’s lives, and that hill means people being able to get back to business, back to work and back to the activities they want. If you wear these things, 80 percent or more of us wear these things consistently whenever we are close to each other, we can get this virus under control.”