With the state surpassing 50,000 COVID-19 cases this week and many Kentucky schools starting in-person classes at the end of the month, Gov. Andy Beshear hinted Wednesday that he expects to extend the mandate requiring people to wear facial coverings in public.

In early July, when the governor signed an executive order necessitating face masks, there had been 17,919 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kentucky. Citing masks' success and continued importance in flattening the COVID-19 curve, Beshear extended the mandate for another 30 days on Aug. 6, when the number of confirmed cases in the state was 33,254.

Since Monday, the state has announced more than 2,000 new cases and 36 coronavirus-related deaths. Locally, Franklin County is rapidly closing in on 500 cases since the pandemic began in March. Nearly half of local cases — 223 — were reported in August.

Despite an increase in cases, Beshear insists that the requirement for face masks in public is working, and public health officials in both Washington, D.C., and Kentucky agree. With statewide cases “creeping up,” facial coverings are “more important than ever,” Beshear said Wednesday, adding that Kentucky is in “a dangerous place” in battling the virus outbreak.

“If we want to protect business, if we want to get our kids back in school, if we want to save lives, the No. 1 thing we need to do is wear a mask,” the governor said. “And the No. 2 thing we need to do is stay 6 feet apart.”

It’s the same advice health officials have been preaching for months, but we firmly believe that until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, social distancing, practicing proper hand-washing and wearing facial coverings are the best defenses we have to reduce spread of the virus.

In our opinion, wearing a face mask is a sign of respect, not a violation of a person’s rights. Facial coverings are designed to protect you from others who may be carrying the virus and to shield others from your germs. And odds are that facial coverings will be required until an inoculation becomes readily available, so it is about time we all get used to wearing them — if not for ourselves, for others.

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