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Paducah, McCracken County lift indoor mask mandate for city buildings, county courthouse

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

McCracken County and Paducah leaders have lifted their indoor mask mandate for city buildings and the county courthouse.

Paducah officials in a release Monday said the city ended its local state of emergency and lifted its mask mandate for employees and the general public because of falling local COVID-19 cases and to mirror the county government’s move lifting a mask mandate inside the county courthouse. The city’s move applies to buildings including city hall, the parks and recreation department, the police department, fire stations and the public works department.

McCracken County’s government announced last week it would be lifting its mask mandate in the county courthouse starting Monday. Paducah Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Wilson said the city will monitor local COVID-19 cases closely in case of future outbreaks.

“As of now, the county was not in the ‘red zone.’ The courthouse had lifted [its mask mandate], so we decided to follow suit for people visiting in city hall or city-owned buildings,” Wilson said.

As of Monday afternoon, McCracken County and all other counties in the Purchase region of Kentucky are not in the “red zone” with the highest level of COVID-19 transmission — 25 daily cases per 100,000 people or more — as classified by state health officials. State health officials have a series of recommendations for counties in the “red zone” including that government buildings require masking. The last date McCracken County was previously in the “red zone” was Oct. 7.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies all counties in Kentucky as having a “high” rate of COVID-19 transmission and still recommends that individuals wear masks indoors. When asked about the CDC’s recommendation, Wilson said the city’s lifting of the mask mandate only applies to city buildings.

The Purchase District Health Department also recommends that individuals still wear masks indoors. Department Director Kent Koster said the region could easily see another COVID-19 spike.

“As long as you've got unvaccinated folks out there, COVID-19 is not going to go away, and when another variant pops its ugly head? We don't know that either,” Koster said.

State health data shows about 57% of McCracken County residents are vaccinated. Koster said it’s ultimately up to local leaders what public health precautions are taken inside their buildings, along with each individual deciding whether to wear a mask.

He said he still recommends local school districts require indoor masking until county rates of COVID-19 transmission get “well into the orange level,” referring to the color-coded system of county transmission rates created by the state. Koster said he hopes school district leaders take into account all public information as it relates to COVID-19 safety protocols when making decisions on masking.

“They all have to make decisions on what level of risk they want to take when it comes to people who are housed or visit their buildings,” Koster said.

Across the state on Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported 678 new COVID-19 cases and 31 new deaths, including a 43-year-old individual.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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