Residents aren’t shy about reporting mask violators, businesses starting to respond

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – While some Kentuckians still may debate the value and importance of wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they aren’t being shy about reporting businesses and individuals who aren’t abiding by the five-day -old statewide order.

According to anecdotal reports in media outlets across the region, local health departments have received a number of calls from concerned residents. Residents can report to the state hotline at 1-833-KYSAFER or online.

For instance, the Anderson News reported health officials there turned one business over to the state’s Labor Department for its failure to comply and two others were put on notice for non-compliance.

According to newspaper editor Ben Carlson, Tim Wright, the county’s director of public health, confirmed those actions, saying the agency had responded to a total of four complaints for violating the mandate.

Meanwhile, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department had received complaints against 50 or so businesses by late Tuesday afternoon, the department told the Herald-Leader.

Some of the businesses immediately took steps to correct the problems, the health department noted.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order which took effect at 5 p.m. Friday requires most people over the age of 5 and who don’t have health conditions that prevent it to wear masks in most indoor public places and some outdoor when social distancing isn’t possible.

The order does have some exceptions.

Local health departments are in charge of enforcing the orders and while some have had conversations with and offer guidance to larger merchants and retailers, they say they depend largely on complaints from citizens calling them directly or calling the state hotline which refers the calls to the county.

Where needed, the departments offer advice on eliminating roadblocks to abiding by the order and provide stricter guidelines about what non-compliance could mean, such as loss of their business permits.

According to the Herald-Leader, most of the complaints to the Fayette County Health Department have been against big box stores and the county’s six Kroger stores.

More than a dozen of the businesses on the health department’s list were gas stations and convenience stores, including some Speedways, Thorntons, Shells and Marathons, according to the newspaper.

Wal-Mart announced Wednesday it will start requiring customers nationwide to wear masks, starting July 20.

The store already has been posting signs and dtationing workers at its entrances informing people of the requirement, according to a WTVQ ABC 36 News survey of stores earlier this week.

Best Buy announced Tuesday it will also require all shoppers coming into its approximately 1,000 stores to wear face masks. Costco began requiring its members to wear masks in stores beginning in May.
Most major retailers and grocers initially hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them. Retailers such as Home Depot have said they are reluctant to put their employees in the position of enforcing mask requirements.
“As the number of confirmed cases has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented,” Walmart said in a news release Wednesday.
About 65% of its more than 5,000 stores, including its Sam’s Club locations, are located in areas where there is government mandate on face coverings.
“To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols,” the company said.
Industry groups and unions have also stepped up their calls around mask requirements for customers.
Last week, the Retail Leaders Industry Association, an industry trade group, called on the nation’s governors to pass statewide mandates requiring citizens to wear masks in public. The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union also urged government officials and business leaders to require masks for customers in an advertisement over the weekend.
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