LEXINGTON, Ky. — Several state agencies headed by Republicans say they will not enforce Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's mandate for all state workers to resume wearing masks while working inside, a potential sign of how contentious new orders to limit the spread of COVID-19 may become.
Leaders of the Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Treasurer and Legislative Research Commission all said Thursday they will not enforce the new mask mandate, which comes as COVID-19 cases have surged over the past five weeks.
In an email sent to the staff of the Department of Agriculture shortly after Beshear announced the new rule Wednesday, Keith Rogers, the chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, told employees the department would leave it up to staff members to decide if they want to wear a mask.
"KDA will not implement nor enforce Governor Beshear's mandate and will continue to leave it up to KDA employees to decide for themselves whether to wear a mask while at work," Rogers wrote.
Mike Wynn, a spokesman for the Legislative Research Commission, said the legislative branch of government will continue enforcing the mask policy it implemented on May 23, which said vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask.
Treasurer Allison Ball called Beshear's mandate "counterproductive and overbroad."
"The Treasury has a very high rate of vaccination among its employees, and the staff has been extremely responsible both in monitoring their own health and in not placing their fellow employees at undue risk," Ball said. "Therefore, my office will not require masking among Treasury employees."
Auditor Mike Harmon's office will also treat the mandate as optional, according to Harmon's spokesman, Michael Goins.
"Because the majority of state employees who work regularly in our Frankfort office are vaccinated, and can also social distance in their individual workspaces, masks will be considered optional for employees and visitors to our Frankfort office," Goins said.
Goins said staff will be expected to put on a mask if they enter any other state or local government building where masks are required.