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Beshear mandates masks for all Kentucky schools, citing exponential rise in COVID-19 cases

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Due to the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, especially with the delta variant affecting children more, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that he has issued a mask mandate for all schools in the state.

“We are now in an alarming place,” he told a Capitol press conference.  “I am signing an executive order that requires that all individuals, teachers, staff, students and visitors, in K-12 schools, childcare and pre-K, wear a mask.  This is how we make sure that we protect our children, but this is also how we make sure that they stay in school.”

Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber said he supports a mask mandate, which has already been adopted by his school board.  

“It has been highly effective,” Barber stated.  We have seen an extraordinary ability to prevent spread, and we have seen it happen as we have been in school for about two weeks.  What’s remarkable is that we have had a limited number of cases, no evidence of any spread, and I’m appreciative of our families, our parents, and all those who have had the courage to make the right decision.”

Beshear said Barber’s experience shows, “Masks have worked in his district, and we have seen that where masks aren’t required, schools either being pushed back, or you have 700 kids in quarantine.  We cannot allow that to continue.  The education and health of our children is too important.”

The Governor noted, “Today’s action is also not only supported by the CDC, it’s exactly what they said we need to do, as well as every local health department across Kentucky.  That means every public health group from the federal to the local, is supportive of this requirement that kids and adults all wear masks while inside school and at daycares.”

“Wearing a mask is a simple step to help keep our children healthy and safe,” said Rebecca Kissick, public health director, of the Clark County Health Department. “The Clark County Health Department recognizes the benefit of in-person learning and support the Governor’s efforts to keep our children healthy in school.”

There was also backing from the business community.  Ashli Watts, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, stated, “We do stand in strong support of this mandate that has been put in place.  As much as I think we all thought that the worst was behind us with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all looking at incredibly tough decisions so we can keep all Kentuckians safe and keep our economy moving.”

Watts explained one way the business community is affected by those school districts that do not have a mask requirement.  “Hundreds of students are now quarantined.  That means hundreds of parents are probably not going to be able to go to work for the next couple of weeks.  This cycle cannot continue.”

Exactly 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 were reported to state public health officials, which brings Kentucky’s pandemic total to 502,712.

There were also seven new deaths, raising the number of Kentuckians lost to 7,394, and the positivity rate has risen to 11.00%, the highest since January.

1,251 Kentuckians were hospitalized on Tuesday.  Of them, 339 were in the ICU and 168 on a ventilator.