Education

Kentucky Governor Orders Masks in Schools as Virus Surges

By The Associated Press — August 11, 2021 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Masking up in Kentucky schools was mandated by Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday as the fast-spreading delta variant causes waves of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The new executive action requiring indoor mask wearing applies to K-12 Kentucky schools, regardless of vaccination status for COVID-19, the Democratic governor said. The requirement also applies to child care and pre-kindergarten programs across Kentucky, he said.

“We are to the point where we cannot allow our kids to go into these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated and face this delta variant,” Beshear said. “We have already seen ... that our kids will not stay in school, they will not get in-person learning. We will have massive quarantines.”

Beshear said he wants to avoid what happened last academic year, when schools shifted to distance learning due to the pandemic. The number of children infected with the virus has risen sharply amid the delta variant outbreak. Children under age 12 aren’t eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. Without requiring masks, they would be defenseless against the virus, the governor said.

“We would be sending them to the deadliest version of a chicken pox party imaginable by sitting them in a classroom every single day without a mask, without being vaccinated, facing the delta variant,” Beshear said at a news conference.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said mask requirements give Kentucky schools the best chance to safely return to full-time, in-person learning this fall.

At Frankfort Independent Schools, the “small sacrifice and commitment” to wear masks has “opened up the world of opportunities for our students to be successful during in-person school,” said Superintendent Houston Barber. Frankfort Independent has been in school since Aug. 2 and has had no spread of COVID-19 cases during that time, Barber said.

Beshear’s masking order comes as Kentucky struggles with its worst virus surge since the pandemic began. He reported 2,500 new virus cases Tuesday — the highest one-day total since January — and seven virus-related deaths. The state’s test positivity rate surpassed 11 percent. Its virus-related death toll is approaching 7,400 and it surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 cases Monday.

Meanwhile, surging hospitalization rates are “absolutely alarming,” the governor said. Virus-related hospitalizations statewide shot up 43 percent and admissions to intensive care units by 32 percent in the first week of August, said Dr. Steven Stack, the state’s public health commissioner. On Tuesday, 1,251 virus patients were hospitalized in Kentucky, including 339 ICU patients, the state said.

“If we don’t do this right, we don’t do our part, our hospitals get overrun,” Beshear said.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

Last month, the governor recommended that school districts require mask-wearing in schools to minimize the risk of disruptions from the virus. Non-compliance in many districts — plus the rising virus cases and hospitalizations — spurred Beshear to impose the schoolhouse mask mandate.

Asked if he’s confident that local school administrators and teachers will enforce the mandate, Beshear replied: “If they care one lick about their kids, they certainly will.”

Most of the Bluegrass State is in the red zone — signaling a severe level of community spread — while vaccination rates continue to only inch upward.

Beshear had a blunt message for the unvaccinated: “If you hate all the steps that we have to take — you hate wearing a mask — get your shot. If you’re not getting your shot, you’re the reason we might have to put back on a mask. You won’t get your shot, you’re the reason that our kids are having to wear masks in school.”

We would be sending them to the deadliest version of a chicken pox party imaginable by sitting them in a classroom every single day without a mask, without being vaccinated, facing the delta variant.

Beshear said his mask order for schools follows federal guidance and will continue for 30 days. Whether it’s extended will depend on the level of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, he said.

The governor didn’t rule out expanding the mask mandate if the situation worsens.

“We’re going to continue to look at this surge in making decisions about what’s next,” he said. “Certainly, we won’t be afraid, if necessary, to institute a statewide mask mandate for those indoors, outside of the home.”

The governor vowed that the state’s economy “is going to stay open.” Beshear ended most pandemic-related restrictions in June. He has trumpeted the state’s economic resurgence in recent months while attending a series of jobs announcements.

“I’m committed to no shutdowns,” he said. “I’m committed to not having to roll back capacity.”

Related Tags:

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP