States

Kentucky Ends All Statewide Mask Mandates After Governor’s Vetoes Overridden

By Jack Brammer and Alex Acquisto, Lexington Herald-Leader — September 10, 2021 4 min read
In this Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the media in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky's governor said Sunday, Oct. 11, that he will quarantine after a member of his security detail who drove with his family the day before later tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said he and his family feel fine, show no coronavirus symptoms and have tested negative for the virus.
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The Republican-led Kentucky General Assembly soundly rejected Gov. Andy Beshear’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic late Thursday night, overriding his vetoes of two bills that stripped the Democratic governor’s ability to issue statewide mask mandates in schools or anywhere else.

The action came as lawmakers ended a special session of the General Assembly just before midnight. The session, called by the governor to comply with a Kentucky Supreme Court decision last month that said the legislature must approve the governor’s emergency orders, began Tuesday.

Both the Senate and House late Thursday overrode Beshear’s vetoes of Senate Bills 1 and 2, which he had issued shortly after the bills were initially approved by lawmakers. Senate Bill 1 would nullify emergency regulations mandating masks at public schools and daycare centers, leaving that decision to local officials and business owners. Senate Bill 2 bans any type of statewide mask mandate until June 2023.

Beshear has said he needs that authority to fight the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,800 Kentuckians and is leaving hospitals severely strapped for staff and resources.

The Senate overrode SB 1 on a 21-6 vote and SB 2 on a vote of 23-5.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey urged his colleagues to sustain the governor’s veto of SB 1, saying the governor needs the power to protect unvaccinated children during a worldwide health crisis. Sen. Reggie Thomas, D- Lexington, agreed and said the federal Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics support universal masking in schools.

The House then overrode the veto of SB 1 in a 69-24 vote. The bill carried an emergency clause, which means it became law immediately. Under the law, the Kentucky Board of Education’s mask mandate will be voided in five working days, giving school districts a limited amount of time to decide if they will impose their own mask requirements.

There was no debate in the Senate on the veto of SB 2 veto before it was handed to the House, where members overrode the governor’s veto of SB 2 in a 69-22 vote.

Earlier in the day, the House on a 69-24 vote gave final approval to Senate Bill 2, which officially nullified administrative regulations that the state previously relied on to enforce a mask mandate across Kentucky.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

This information is no longer being updated. The last data update was on May 23, 2022.

  • MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT


    1. Florida

    On Sept. 22, Florida's surgeon general instituted a rule that gives parents and legal guardians "sole discretion" over masking in schools. On Nov. 5, a judge sided with the state health department in a legal challenge to rule. On Nov. 18, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that allows parents to sue school districts that require masks.

    2. Georgia

    On March 29, Gov. Kemp signed the “Unmask Georgia Students Act” which allows parents to exempt their child from a school mask requirement. The law went into effect immediately.

    3. Iowa

    On Sept. 13, 2021, a federal judge ordered Iowa to halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools. On Jan. 25, 2022, a federal appeals panel narrowed that injunction. Iowa’s attorney general announced the state is not enforcing the ban while awaiting further action from the court. On May 16, 2022 a U.S. Court of Appeals lifted the injunction.

    4. Oklahoma

    On Sept. 1, an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the state law banning school mask mandates, but students or their parents can still opt out of school mask mandates if they choose.

    5. Utah

    In Utah, local health departments can issue 30-day school mask mandates with approval from the state or county government, according to the state’s top education official.

    6. Virginia

    On Jan. 15, Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order allowing parents to opt their child out of any school mask mandate. It effectively rescinded the state's school mask requirement that had been in place since August. That executive order was later halted by a judge. On Feb. 14, the Virginia legislature passed a measure that bans school mask mandates. That bill was signed by the governor on Feb. 16 and went into effect on March 1.

    MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED


    1. Arizona

    On Sept. 27, a judge in Arizona blocked the state laws banning mask mandates that were set to take effect on Sept. 29. On Nov. 2, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld that ruling. On April 25, Gov. Ducey signed HB2616, which prevents schools from requiring a student to wear a mask without first getting parental consent. The ban, which replaces the one blocked by the courts, will go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.

    2. Arkansas

    An Arkansas judge ruled on Dec. 29, that a law signed by the governor in April that prohibited local officials, including school boards, from setting mask mandates was unconstitutional. School districts have been able to set their own mask requirements since August when the judge put the law on hold.

    3. South Carolina

    On Sept. 28, a federal judge suspended South Carolina from enforcing the rule that banned school districts from requiring masks for students.

    4. Tennessee
    5. Texas

    On March 17, an appeals court upheld an injunction that blocked Gov. Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates in schools, finding it is unlawful and exceeding the governor's authority. This is not the first time the state's ban has been halted by a judge.

    MASK REQUIREMENT IN EFFECT


    1. Hawaii

    Although Hawaii's state-wide indoor mask mandate ended on March 25, indoor masking will still be required in public schools at least through the summer.

    PREVIOUSLY HAD MASK REQUIREMENT


    1. California

    On Feb. 28, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington issued a joint announcement that mask requirements would end in their states effective March 12.

    2. Connecticut

    On Feb. 7, Gov. Lamont announced that the school mask rule would expire Feb. 28. He signed a bill on Feb. 15 that made the expiration date official.

    3. Delaware

    On Feb. 7, Gov. Carney amended his emergency order to allow his state-level school mask requirement to expire March 31. On Feb. 28, he announced that masks would no longer be required effective at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1.

    4. District of Columbia

    On March 8, the department of health released updated guidelines that recommend universal masking only when community COVID-19 levels are high.

    5. Illinois

    On Feb. 5, a judge issued a temporary restraining order on the governor's statewide mask requirement. On Feb. 25, the state supreme court vacated that order. On the same day, the governor announced he would lift the requirement on Feb. 28.

    6. Kentucky

    Kentucky's school mask mandate ended in September, when the state legislature voted to limit the governor’s emergency powers.

    7. Louisiana

    According to a State of Emergency proclamation issued Nov. 23, which was extended on Jan. 19, students were required to wear masks in schools, but districts could opt out of the mandate if they adopted an isolation and quarantine policy consistent with the state's department of health protocols. On Feb. 16, Gov. Bel Edwards extended the order without requiring masking in schools.

    8. Maryland

    On Jan. 5, the mask mandate was extended for 180 days, but allowed school districts to opt out if certain vaccination rates were met. On Feb. 22, the state board of education voted to rescind the mandate. On Feb. 25, a state legislative committee gave final approval to lift the mandate effective March 1.

    9. Massachusetts

    On Sept. 27, the state began allowing schools to apply for a waiver from the face covering rules for vaccinated individuals if certain vaccination rates were met. On Feb. 9, officials announced the statewide mask requirement for K-12 schools would be lifted on February 28.

    10. Nevada

    On Feb. 10, Gov. Sisolak announced the immediate suspension of the school mask requirement. The previous mask requirement had only applied to counties with populations of 100,000 people or more.

    11. New Jersey

    On Feb. 7, Gov. Murphy announced plans to end his state’s school-mask requirement on March 7.

    12. New Mexico

    On Feb. 17, Gov. Grisham announced the end of the mask requirement, effective immediately.

    13. New York

    On Jan. 24, a judge struck down the state's mask mandate. A day later, an appeals judge restored the mandate. On Feb. 27, Gov. Hochul announced the mandate would be lifted on March 2.

    14. Oregon

    On Feb. 7, health officials said the state would drop its school mask requirement no later than March 31. On Feb. 24, the Oregon Health Authority announced the requirement would lift on March 19. However, on Feb. 28, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington issued a joint announcement that mask requirements would end in their states effective March 12.

    15. Pennsylvania

    A statewide mask mandate for Pennsylvania schoolchildren was thrown out by the state Supreme Court on December 10.

    16. Rhode Island

    On Feb. 9, Gov McKee announced the school mask mandate would only remain in effect until March 4. On Feb. 15, he signed an executive order specifying that the order would take effect at 5 p.m. on March 4.

    17. Virginia

    On Jan. 15, Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order allowing parents to opt their child out of any school mask mandate. It effectively rescinded the state's school mask requirement that had been in place since August. That executive order was later halted by a judge. On Feb. 14, the Virginia legislature passed a measure that bans school mask mandates. That bill was signed by the governor on Feb. 16 and went into effect on March 1.

    18. Washington

    On Feb. 17, Gov. Inslee announced the state's school mask requirement will end effective March 21. However, on Feb. 28, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington issued a joint announcement that mask requirements would end in their states effective March 12.

  • NOTES
    In January 2022, the Missouri attorney general, Eric Schmitt, sued some school districts that required masks, citing a November ruling by a county judge that said local health orders tied to COVID-19 were illegal. (The ruling was interpreted differently by different districts.) The state’s treasurer announced he would also crack down on schools with mask mandates. In mid-March, Schmitt began dropping lawsuits against school districts that no longer required masks. On May 19, 2022 Schmitt announced new lawsuits against several districts that had reinstated mask requirements.
    On Feb. 23, 2022, New Hampshire’s governor announced the state was no longer recommending universal indoor masking and therefore schools have to end mask mandates, arguing they violate state education department rules. Soon after, the department advised districts that the mandates “are inconsistent with” their rules. There’s disagreement over whether districts still have the authority to require masks, but at least one district changed its policy in response. A bill that would have banned mask mandates was vetoed by Gov. Sununu in May 2022.
    Updated 5/23/2022 | Sources: Local media reports, Education Week reporting | Learn more here

That same bill also requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to work with local health care providers to set up regional monoclonal antibody treatment centers across Kentucky. This form of therapy is often administered to people at risk of severe coronavirus infection who test positive as a way of staving off a severe infection that would require them to be hospitalized.

SB 2 also codifies that residents in long-term care facilities be allowed one “essential compassionate care visitor,” who can visit them in person even if facilities limit visitation as community spread worsens across Kentucky.

It also outlines a media strategy to publicize the voices of community leaders on the dangers of the virus and the importance of the vaccine. That’s a subsection of the bill Senate President Robert Stivers said was drafted, in part, because Beshear and Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack have “desensitized” Kentuckians on these issues by updating them so often on coronavirus.

It also allows certified paramedics to work in hospitals and prohibits bans on some nursing home visitors.

Another major bill the House gave final approval on an 84-8 vote and sent to Beshear for his consideration was House Bill 3, which would earmark more than $69 million in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to address the pandemic.

It allows the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to increase COVID-19 testing and help providers with monoclonal antibody treatments.

The House also gave final approval to Senate Bill 5, which would spend more than $410 million in incentives to try to attract economic development projects with investments of more than $2 billion. The vote was 91-2.

Beshear called for the special session on Saturday, in keeping with a recent Kentucky Supreme Court decision that said the legislature must approve emergency orders that Beshear had, up until last month, been issuing on his own.

Since the pandemic began, Republicans have been at odds with the Democratic governor over emergency orders he has enacted to mitigate spread of the virus, including issuing a statewide mask mandate that was in effect for almost a year.

“All we ever wanted in this process was [for Beshear to say], ‘Hey, we need to work together and get through this,” said Rep. Stephen Rudy, R- Paducah. “Governor, include the policy-making branch in your decisions, and he refused to do so.”

Late Thursday night, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R- Winchester, urged the governor to amend the agenda for the special session to allow lawmakers to provide $81 million in federal funds to help lure and keep frontline health workers.

He expressed concern that some nursing homes will have to close due to President Biden’s directive Thursday that mandates vaccines for more than 100 million Americans.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R- Paducah, chimed in with Alvarado’s plea, looking into the camera and telling Beshear the Senate doors were open and he could come in and amend the call.

Sen. Karen Berg, D- Louisville, said Republicans were being “disingenuous.” She said she begged lawmakers in the summer of 2020 to help frontline workers and she was not heard.

Her remarks upset Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R- Georgetown. He said Berg should take a lesson in decorum.

Copyright (c) 2021, Lexington Herald-Leader. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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