Beshear mandates masks in schools, child care centers amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Christian County Public Schools had previously announced a plan to require masks in schools, following a school board vote on Thursday.

In response to a surge in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant and recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday issued an executive order mandating masks in all schools and child care centers.

The order requires all teachers, staff, students and visitors to wear a face covering when inside any public or private school in Kentucky, as well as on school buses. At child care settings, all staff, visitors and children 2 and older who are able to wear a mask must also do so.

The mandate is regardless of vaccination status.

“We are in the midst of the fastest surge that we have ever seen during COVID right now,” Beshear said. “This move is supported by medical organizations, local health department leaders, businesses and education leaders. It is also supported by the Kentucky Chamber, representing 3,800 member businesses across the commonwealth. This is a united front of saving lives, keeping our kids in school and keeping our economy and workforce going.”

On Aug. 5, the CDC updated its recommendation that all teachers, staff, students and visitors wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

The governor pointed to a surge in hospitalizations of children being treated for COVID-19 that has caused children’s hospitals to become overwhelmed. Recent CDC data shows a daily average of 225 children with coronavirus admitted to hospitals across the country over the past week. The American Academy of Pediatrics also reports that more than 93,000 children and teenagers were infected with COVID-19 from July 29 to Aug. 5.

“This is very different than what we saw the first time around,” Dr. Scottie B. Day, physician-in-chief at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington said during a press briefing with the governor on Tuesday. “When we look across the country at the case rates, pediatric cases are representing anywhere from 14-17% of the total cases, which is very concerning. As many may know, an estimated 400 children have died, which may seem like a small number relative to adults, but these are children. These are the future generations. We need to keep our children safe.”

Christian County Public Schools had previously announced a plan to require masks in schools, following a school board vote on Thursday.

Beshear mandates masks in schools, child care centers amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Julia Hunter

Julia Hunter is the engagement editor for Hoptown Chronicle. Reach her at julia@hoptownchronicle.org.