Goettl seeks guidance on state mask mandate

Published 10:09 am Friday, July 17, 2020

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County Attorney Brian Goettl isn’t convinced the coronavirus is a big enough threat to legally justify Gov. Andy Beshear issuing an executive order to require people to wear face coverings in public places.

He is seeking guidance from the Office of the Attorney General on prosecuting violators, although he said he thinks the issue may be moot if the 30-day order effective since 5 p.m. last Friday is an administrative rather than a criminal matter. If it’s administrative, his office would not have to take violators to district court.

Goettl wrote to Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Chief Assistant Attorney General Barry Dunn last Friday and said he had reviewed the governor’s order.

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“As I feared, it does not adequately make the case that there is an emergency, threatened emergency, or impending emergency as required by KRS 39A et sq. in Kentucky, sufficient to warrant the infringement on personal liberties that the order seeks to impose on the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky generally and the citizens of Jessamine County specifically,” he wrote.

He said there is no reference to the source of facts cited as reasons for issuing the order and many “appear to be from news articles as opposed to scientic data.”

He said the data cited about the increase in infections may only be a result of increased testing, and increased hospitalizations “may simply be a product of our health system opening up and admitting more patients.” Also, he said, the increase in numbers could be a result of “mass protests” in Lexington and Louisville, and he asked why a resident of Nicholasville should have his or her rights infringed because marchers in those cities ignored social distancing guidelines.

Goettl also said an increase in infections may not mean there is a public health emergency because at least 95 percent of those who get the virus are asymptomatic and the mortality rate of those 65 and older is less than or equal to the mortality rate for influenza.

He also said the estimate that at least 132,000 Americans have died of the disease is “patently unscientific” because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the death number includes people who died of other causes but were suspected of having COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Goettl said more damage will be done to the state by “unlawful orders than will be done by this disease.”

In an email to The Jessamine Journal, Goettl said the constitutional issue of whether government can or cannot tell someone what to do with their body is “the essence of our personal freedom,” and he cited the abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade to make his point.

“Demanding strict obedience without challenge is a dangerous trait in a chief executive. The executive branch controls the power of the government over the lives and liberty of its citizens,” he wrote.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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