mask mgn

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear defended his mask requirement for state workers Thursday, brushing off criticism by GOP officials who said they won't enforce the mandate in their offices.

The governor said he can't discipline state workers in those offices for not following the mandate, but he warned they face a much higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19 without a mask.

Beshear issued the order Wednesday amid a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

Federal guidance recommends people in areas with substantial spread of COVID-19 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Kentucky reported 1,618 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, as well as two additional virus-related deaths. The Kentucky Department for Public Health reports that 608 people are currently hospitalized with the illness in the state, including 189 in intensive care units and 82 on ventilators. 

So far, 2,291,046 Kentuckians have gotten vaccinated. That's 52% of the total state population. 

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