Kentucky Governor Asks Court to Uphold Coronavirus Safety Orders

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear walks through the state’s Emergency Operations Center at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., on May 3. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) — In the face of rising Covid-19 cases, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear is asking a court to declare that he did have the authority to issue an executive order that requires most Kentucky residents to wear face coverings when in public.

The 18-page lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Franklin County, and argues that the governor’s authority allows him “to protect life and property of the people of the Commonwealth” and that his executive order issued on July 9 falls squarely within that power.

“Kentucky statutes, and longstanding precedent to keep Kentuckians safe during an emergency like the once-in-a-lifetime public health emergency we are battling now. Without an answer from this and ultimately the Supreme Court, our Commonwealth threatens to join the ranks of other states where COVID-19 cases are surging, hospital beds are dwindling, and more people are dying,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit is critical of the actions of its lone defendant, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, claiming he has issued “incorrect legal advice” that impedes the governor’s ability to carry out his mask requirement.

The critique comes after a letter written on July 9 by Cameron to Beshear, in which the lawsuit claims the attorney general called the mask requirement “arbitrary and overbroad.”

Cameron has intervened in multiple lawsuits challenging Beshear’s Covid-19 related emergency orders. On July 10, Cameron criticized the governor while asking a Scott County Judge to determine if the mask requirement complies with state law.

“Had the Governor consulted with our office and the leadership of the General Assembly on his order prior to its issuance, this step would have been unnecessary. The Governor has refused input on his executive orders, despite offers of assistance. This pattern has led to numerous challenges in court, all of which he has lost,” Cameron said in a statement.

Cameron went on to say that he was not attacking the appropriateness of wearing masks to combat Covid-19 and called them an “important tool in fighting this pandemic.”

Considering the repeated battles between Beshear and Cameron over Covid-19 restrictions, another goal of the lawsuit is to force further challenges from the attorney general to be filed in the same venue.

The lawsuit asks the court to rule that further challenges to Beshear’s authority must come in Franklin County, as that is the county of the state’s capital Frankfort and where the public health emergency orders are issued.

“Attorney General Cameron’s intervention in cases brought in Boone and Scott Circuit Courts to allege identical claims regarding the Governor’s constitutional and statutory authority has led to inconsistent rulings and unnecessary expense of time and resources of the state,” the lawsuit claims.

As cases of Covid-19 rose in many states across the county, Kentucky saw its second highest single day total on July 14, with 576 newly reported cases. According to state government data, Kentucky has seen at least 19,737 positive Covid-19 cases, with another 940 cases listed as probable. In addition, the state lists 641 lab confirmed deaths and lists 4 other deaths as probable.

Overall, the state data says they have performed a total of 498,179 Covid-19 tests, and based upon a 7-day rolling average, 4.62% of Covid-19 tests have been recorded as positive.

On Wednesday, Beshear urged Kentucky residents to heed the face covering requirement in the face of rising case numbers.

“It shows you how critical this facial covering requirement is,” he said. “And we have to end the silliness. Challenges to this mean the loss of lives and could send us the way of Arizona or Florida, and we don’t want that,” Beshear said.

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