Kentucky Supreme Courtroom upholds Governor Beshear's masks mandate, emergency restrictions

In this file photo dated May 11, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear puts on a face mask after speaking to reporters at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.

Ryan C. Hermens | Lexington Herald Leader | AP

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Democratic Governor Andy Beshear's coronavirus emergency order, which imposed a statewide mask mandate and limited seating in restaurants as cases increase across the state.

The lawsuit "would have eliminated every single protector we have here in Kentucky to protect you," Beshear said during a press conference after the decision was announced. "It would not only have led to difficulties, but also death if this challenge had been overcome in the end."

In May, Beshear allowed restaurants to reopen for indoor dining services at 33% capacity, and later auto racing allowed them to return with only staff and drivers. The governor also issued an executive order requiring most people to wear face covering in public.

However, some Kentucky business owners said the governor exceeded his power by implementing the restrictions. Kentucky's Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his team, who challenged the governor's orders in the state's highest court, said Beshear's restrictions were beyond his constitutional powers to take action that applies to everyone in the state, the NBC reported Daughter Lex 18 in September.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the state's Supreme Court said Beshear was acting as governor within his constitutional power. The governor's orders "were and are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of all Kentucky citizens," Judge Lisabeth T. Hughes said, according to the court.

"The Supreme Court has said the measures we are taking are constitutional. Now is the time," Beshear said during the briefing. "We know what the law is, it's clear, so let's all support the things that protect one another."

Cameron said in a statement Thursday that while the court disagreed with her position, the governor's executive power "must be examined by the general assembly in the upcoming term."

President-elect Joe Biden has urged governors and city leaders to introduce mask requirements, stating that if more people wear them, they will save American lives. The decision is made because Kentucky reports a weekly average of 2,047 Covid-19 cases per day, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, an increase of nearly 25% from a week ago.

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