Beshear issues mask mandate for all K-12 schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said in response to the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant and recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, he will require the following via an executive order:

  • All individuals – all teachers, staff, students and visitors – must cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when indoors in all public and private preschool, Head Start, elementary, middle and high schools (preschool through grade 12) in Kentucky, including but not limited to inside of vehicles used for transportation such as school buses, regardless of vaccination status; and
  • All staff, visitors and children ages 2 and older who are able to wear a face covering must cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when indoors in all child care settings in Kentucky, regardless of vaccination status.

“We are in the midst of the fastest surge that we have ever seen during COVID right now. 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,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is a united front of saving lives, keeping our kids in school and keeping our economy and workforce going.”

The order includes a list of exemptions.

The CDC now recommends universal indoor wearing of face coverings for all teachers, staff, students (ages 2 and older) and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC recommends that all people ages 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated should wear a face covering while indoors in child care settings. The CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a face covering in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

The surge of hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 is causing children’s hospitals to become overwhelmed, with recent CDC data showing an average of 225 children with COVID-19 admitted to U.S. hospitals every day over the past week. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 93,000 children and teenagers were infected with COVID-19 from July 29 to Aug. 5.

While Kentucky has had success in administering at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 2,376,891 people, vaccinations remain unavailable for approximately 661,500 Kentucky children ages 11 and under, and less than 34% of all eligible Kentucky children between ages 12 and 17 have received their first dose of a vaccine.

Health care, public health, school and business leaders across Kentucky echoed support for the Governor’s order.

Health Care Leaders Share Experiences Treating Patients with Delta Variant
Two practicing health care leaders joined the Governor’s briefing to share their recent experiences treating young patients infected with the COVID-19 delta variant.

“This is very different than what we saw the first time around. 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,” said Dr. Scottie B. Day, MD, FAAP, physician-in-chief, UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington. “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.”

“As we have been seeing more patients with the delta variant, we have had to deal with a new problem: younger patients who become unstable more unpredictably,” said Miriam Haas, RN, BSN, nurse manager at Norton Brownsboro Hospital in Louisville. “These patients tend not to have other health issues that contribute to their illness – they don’t have anything in common other than the delta variant and the fact that many of them were not vaccinated. Many of our COVID patients say that if they had it to do over again, they would have received the vaccine. As a nurse this has been the most difficult thing I have been through in my 13-year career. The things we have seen will never leave me.”