Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order requiring masks at all Kentucky schools, child care centers, and pre-Kindergarten programs regardless of vaccination status. He said the mandate targets all students, staff, and visitors.
Beshear explained his decision during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in which he said COVID-19 cases have increased “at an alarming rate.” He added, “We are in the midst of the fastest surge that we have ever seen of [COVID-19] in the commonwealth right now.”
He reported the positivity rate is now at 11.05%, with 2,500 people newly diagnosed. Currently, 1,251 Kentuckians are hospitalized with the virus, over five times the number hospitalized a month ago.
“We cannot keep our kids in school if we are unwilling to wear a mask,” Beshear said.
Medical officials have vaccinated 2.38 million Kentuckians, equating to 64% of all adults in the commonwealth. Senior citizens continue to lead demographics, with 84% of all residents over 65 years old vaccinated.
Beshear targeted younger Kentuckians who are less likely to have received the COVID shot. He claims they are more likely to become impacted by the coronavirus Delta variant. Kentuckians between 18 and 29 years old have the lowest percentage of those vaccinated in the state ‒ only 39%.
Medical professionals continue to ask people to wear masks and get a shot. Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephen Stack urged Kentuckians to reschedule elective surgeries for at least the next several weeks. However, Governor Beshear said he does not anticipate ordering hospitals to take the step. “If your medical system is scheduling,” he explained, “I trust they have the staff to handle the situation.”
During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 to limit a governor’s executive orders to 30 days unless extended by the General Assembly. Governor Besehear vetoed the measure and lawmakers voted to override. Currently, SB 1 is under an injunction until the Supreme Court decides on the matter.