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State officials recommending masks when school begins

Due to the continued escalation of COVID-19 cases, especially the delta variant, state officials announced Thursday they have strengthened their mask guidance for schools.

On Monday, it was recommended everyone who is not vaccinated wear a mask, as well as everyone around them when indoors in grades K-12.

Three days later, State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said during a Capitol press conference that has changed.

“Now our recommendation mirrors the CDC, which is flat and simple, everyone in K-12 indoor spaces should wear a mask. If you are in a school setting and you are indoors, you should always wear a mask.”

Stack said he is not really begging people to get vaccinated. “It’s more like wondering why folks wouldn’t want to be protected from this when you can get a vaccine that others provide at no additional cost to anyone, that protects you from all of these harms. It’s just puzzling why folks wouldn’t do it.”

He also urged people not to get their medical advice from social media sites due to misinformation found there.

“We would all be better off if everyone just tuned out social media and stop watching anything on cable that wasn’t a movie or a television show for entertainment,” Stack said. “Listen to the trusted experts: healthcare providers, public health leaders. If we would do that, we could get over this faster.”

Dr. Crystal Miller, medical director of the WEDCO Health District, which includes Harrison, Nicholas, Scott, and Bourbon counties, also spoke on the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Eighty-six percent of our cases for the past two months are unvaccinated individuals,” she said. “Our hospital demands are increasing, with 20% of our hospital census related to COVID, and we have doubled our COVID admissions to hospitals. We are trending up very fast, and we can’t keep up that pace. We know what works; we know what we need to do.”

Shortly after the press conference, the Kentucky Department of Education released additional guidance saying students should return to full-time in-person learning with layered prevention strategies in place, some of which go beyond what Stack said.

They include:

• Vaccination for those 12 or older.

• Masks for all persons while indoors.

• Physical distancing of at least 3 feet.

• Screening testing for unvaccinated individuals.

• Ventilation.

• Handwashing and facility disinfection.

• Isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing.