JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The 30-day mask mandate in Kentucky sparked confusion among citizens and departments in Jessamine County.
Jessamine County Health Department Director Randy Gooch said the verbiage in the mandate is multi-layered.
"With the administrative regulations that come out with the mask mandate, [they] give several arms of enforcement in regards to requiring businesses and individuals to wear the mask. We're only one arm of that enforcement for businesses," explained Gooch. "Certainly the Department for Public Health, the Labor Cabinet, some of the other enforcement agencies that actually licensed businesses, and the local health department are given, given the authority and the ability through the administrative regulations to enforce this with businesses. As far as individual enforcement, that role is actually given to local and state law enforcement."
When the mask mandate went into effect on July 10 at 5:00 p.m. and Jessamine County residents saw others in businesses not wearing masks, Nicholasville Police started receiving calls.
But police did not respond. Instead, they posted on Facebook saying they would not respond because mandates fall "outside the responsibility of police to enforce." In their post, Nicholasville Police did say if a business has a mask policy and asks a non-mask-wearing customer to leave and they refuse, that becomes trespassing and therefore an arrestable offense, and police will respond to that.
Gooch said he hopes the Governor will provide some clarity. "One thing that I'm hearing from law enforcement is, "It's not really defined in regards to those violations who they go through," you know, and whether they go through the courts or whether or not they go through the cabinet for Health and Family Services. They're telling me they don't really have the avenue to, you know, cite and ticket people. You know, that is something that we're trying to get more clarification on, and we generally have local health department updates from the state on Thursday afternoons and I'm hoping that they can provide us a little bit more clarification in regards to that. But the administrative regulation does specifically spell out that in regards to individual compliance it is law enforcement that has the ability to address those particular issues in general."
Gooch said he recognizes when the mask mandate is in effect, businesses are in a tough spot. He stated, "It's a difficult task and a difficult ask for employers to engage with their patrons to ensure that they wear a mask while they're doing business there with them, you know. But for the respect of individuals, we can make it much easier on employers if we as individual Kentuckians just would comply with the orders themselves."
The Jessamine County Health Department has a "COVID-19 concern button" on their website for citizens to file mask mandate violations.
Gooch explained his department will reach out to the business and ensure they know what is expected of them before later conducting an in-person visit to ensure that business is complying with the mandate.
"There's a lot of work going on to try to give us the tools of having a vaccine, having a therapeutic drug that can respond to COVID-19 very effectively. Until we actually have those components have those tools in our toolbox, there's a minimum set of tools that we have that minimum set is social distancing, hand washing, sanitizing and wearing a mask to protect others as well as the disease investigation and the contact tracing," said Gooch. "But those three items the hand washing, the social distancing and the masking is something that every individual in the world can do."