Last week newcomer Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg — the first Republican to hold the Senate District 7 seat, which includes Franklin County — filed a bill that would prohibit face mask requirements during a state of emergency across Kentucky.

According to the sparse wording of Senate Bill 158, only health care workers would be obligated to wear facial coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic and any other virus or disease emergencies.

Southworth said on social media that she filed SB 158 “to start the conversation on how to address acute vs. chronic and local/regional disparity.”

“This bill is a state-level measure to remove the blanket approach and give space for more nuanced approach as the numbers decline and statewide emergency comes to a close,” she told The State Journal. “I filed it (Wednesday) because words matter and without placing some version of this in public view, I was unable to get accurate feedback. So I imagine it will evolve as we go, but as of yet it is too early to tell what that would be.”

Southworth filed the bill the same day that Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a restraining order to temporarily block a new law aimed at limiting the governor’s executive emergency powers.

The judge said that implementing the new law would create “chaos” and undermine measures already taken to combat the coronavirus.

The same can be said of Southworth’s SB 158, which would undo the progress Kentucky has made in an 11-month fight against COVID-19.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Wearing a facial covering is not and shouldn’t be political. When worn properly — covering your nose and mouth — face masks are used to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Wearing a face mask is a sign of respect for yourself and others.

With many Kentuckians out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and schools reopening after months of virtual learning, there are plenty of more pressing matters for politicians to take up this session. It is our hope that Southworth and other legislators will focus on the issues instead of arguing about whether face masks should be required.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Daily Independent. This piece originally appeared in The State Journal (Frankfort).

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