Governor sees ‘major outbreak’ of COVID cases in General Assembly, says more legislators need to wear masks

Noting that his executive branch is masked up, the Democratic governor said, "We have not had a major outbreak that I think they’re seeing on the legislative side. That’s because masks work."

Saying he believes the General Assembly is having “a major outbreak” of coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that legislators need to take more preventive precautions.

“I think everybody should be wearing a mask,” Beshear said when asked at a press conference if lawmakers should do more. “I think a ton of legislators have had COVID in the last week or so, based on the numbers of folks that are voting remotely, based on them having to take a day off from the General Assembly because so many people had COVID.

legislators not wearing masks
Two of the nine in-person legislators visible in this screenshot of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Thursday were wearing masks. At least one member participated remotely. (KET)

“I mean, dear Lord, put on a mask if you know a bunch of people around you have COVID. It’s just basic protections. We don’t have to be tougher than the person next to us. Nobody is watching us to see how scared or not scared we are. This isn’t some test of masculinity. I mean, it is a virus; wear a mask. It protects you, but hey, if you’ve got it and even if you don’t know it, you wanna spread it to the person next to you that might have a terrible reaction to it? It’d be terrible to be in the legislature and to lose a seatmate to your right or to your left.”

Beshear noted that he has made testing available to everyone in the Capitol.

“If they’re unwilling to wear a mask, at least get tested every day so you know that you’re not potentially exposing people around you,” he said. “But remember, if the person next to you hasn’t been tested, you need to wear a mask to make sure you have all of that protection.”

Noting that his executive branch is masked up, the Democratic governor said, “We have not had a major outbreak that I think they’re seeing on the legislative side. That’s because masks work.”

House Speaker David Osborne told Kentucky Health News, “While we do not comment on the private health status of individual legislators, I would caution the governor and anyone else who makes an assumption based on the use of remote voting and a change in our legislative schedule. Assumptions are dangerous and contribute nothing.

“In fact, the decision to change the legislative calendar was made when we decided to meet on Saturday, Jan. 8 but was contingent on the governor presenting his budget recommendations. Let me also stress that we have used remote learning and other methods since the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to do so at our discretion.”

Governor sees ‘major outbreak’ of COVID cases in General Assembly, says more legislators need to wear masks

Kentucky Health News

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.