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Governor: 'Critical Mass' Of Mask Wearers Could Blunt Rapid Rise In Fayette, Other Counties

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A steady upward trend in coronavirus cases continues in Kentucky, as Lexington shows signs of becoming a hot spot.

Of the 277 new cases reported statewide Monday, 78 were found in Fayette County. The county also accounted for three of the four new deaths recorded. The assessment of the Fayette Health Department is that COVID-19 is "spreading rapidly" in Lexington as the city continues to break single-day case records.

Six of Lexington's 10 highest one-day totals have been reported in July as more and more residents venture out, head to work, or take vacations. In all, the city logged another 89 cases just over the weekend.

The health department says case reviews are showing people who report visiting local businesses while infectious. Other investigations reveal cases in vacationers returning from hot spots, including Florida and South Carolina.

Gov. Andy Beshear said areas with spiking caseloads could require targeted interventions if the numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. But for now, he's hoping more widespread wearing of masks could help communities reverse course.

"We believe that if we can get a critical mass of individuals, even in those counties, wearing masks and engaging in social distancing that we can turn these numbers around," the governor said. "I want to at least give that a number of days. It will take about 10 days for us to see its impact before we take other steps."

In addition, the Beshear administration is currently locked in a court battle over his authority to issue the mask mandate and other restrictions. The governor is seeking to have a Scott County judge who ruled against the administration disqualified from ruling on the legality of the mask rule, arguing he has engaged in conduct that calls his partiality into question.

The administration is requesting the appointment of a special judge to hear the case, which appears destined for the state Supreme Court.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron says his request for an opinion on the legality of the state's mask rule is about protecting the constitution, not his personal feelings about the safety precaution.

"I'm not opposed to the wearing of the mask," the top law enforcement official said. "I was in church yesterday. Everyone in the pews had masks on. This is just a matter of whether it can be mandated, and so we'll see what the judge says about that."

The Republican has cited a lack of input from lawmakers on the new rule and the successful legal challenges brought against Beshear's coronavirus-related orders.

The governor has warned placing restrictions on his office's authority could prevent the state from taking proper precautions as COVID-19 cases increase.

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