Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. and Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton took to Facebook on Thursday morning in an effort to encourage the public to take the new COVID-19 mandates that were passed down from Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday seriously.

The mandates from Beshear include no indoor dining for restaurants and bars, up to eight people allowed in private gatherings from a maximum of two households, gyms, fitness centers, pools and other indoor recreation facilities are allowed to be at 33% capacity with group classes, team practices and competitions prohibited; athletes also must wear masks during workouts, in venues, event spaces and theaters, each room is limited to a maximum of 25 people, office-based businesses are limited to 33% of employees; all employees who are able to work from home must do so; all businesses that can close to the public must do so and schools are now all going to virtual learning.

According to Beshear, the mandates could last anywhere from three to six weeks depending on COVID-19 numbers.

“The COVID-19 numbers are the reason for the mandate,” said Cotton.

According to Whitfield and Cotton, the county reported Thursday a total of 1,592 cases in the county since the pandemic began. Out of those cases, 46 have died from the virus and 1,030 have recovered leaving 516 active cases.

“We are continuing to see active cases go up,” said Cotton. “It is important that we are following the mask mandate, using social distancing and avoiding large groups. We don’t want to max out the hospital rooms and exhaust the hospital teams.”

Whitfield talked about the trend of the increase in virus cases since the pandemic began. The first increase was right before everything shut down at the beginning of the year. In July, another increase was documented, which brought about the mask mandate, and the current one is happening right now, according to Whitfield.

“We understand the frustrations and we know that nobody likes these mandates,” said Cotton. “I can tell you first hand that these mandates are devastating our community.”

Cotton said small businesses will be impacted.

“I have one of those businesses in our community,” he said. “We are one of those small businesses trying to keep our employees working so they can have food on their tables.”

Whitfield, also a business owner, said he wishes things could go back to normal.

“I wish we could just open back up,” he said. “But I just don’t think we can.”

Cotton also talked about the 46 that have died in the county from COVID-19.

“We have lost in our community,” he said. “We know this virus is here and real … the numbers are climbing. This is tough. This has lasted longer than any other disaster in our community. If the governor is asking that everyone follow these mandates, it is in the best interest of public health. We need for the whole community to come together and be serious, and if you don’t think it’s real, ask someone who has lost someone.”

Whitfield said the outbreak has become a political issue.

“The hardest part is dealing with the two factions of people, who have no regard for the other side,” he said. “Some either believe this is a complete hoax and there’s others who think we should completely shut down. It has turned into a political issue and it’s just not. The decisions we make may be political but the virus is not.”

Beshear said Wednesday that these mandates were not a complete shutdown.

“Since March 6 — the day Kentucky had its first confirmed case — we have been under attack and at war with the coronavirus. It has upended our routines, damaged our economy, threatened our children’s education and taken far too many lives,” Beshear said. “Now, it is time for Kentucky’s third counterattack on the coronavirus. Let me be clear about a few things. This is not, and will not be, a shutdown. Our economy is open, and there will be no closings based on essential or nonessential services.”

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