Governor Andy Beshear said he would have ordered another statewide mask mandate weeks ago had he been allowed. Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of legislators in a lawsuit Beshear filed to prevent legislation limiting his emergency powers from becoming law.
Last week, the General Assembly convened during a special session. While they extended some emergency orders regarding the pandemic, lawmakers passed bills preventing Beshear from issuing statewide mask mandates and school mask requirements.
Beshear criticized the move during a Friday appearance and again during Monday’s news conference. He directed a message to school boards and superintendents now charged with deciding upon masks at a local level. “Let me just say that I don’t think there is a decision,” said Beshear. “There is one right answer where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school. And then, there is one wrong decision where you endanger children and you allow COVID to spread throughout your community when your hospital is already overburdened.”
He began the news conference by reflecting on the September 11 terror attacks and the heroism of that day. Beshear described getting vaccinated and wearing masks as one’s “patriotic duty.”
While data revealed fewer new COVID-19 cases last week than the week before, Beshear warned people not to take that as a sign that Kentucky has reached a second pandemic peak. He and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said public health officials administered fewer tests during the Labor Day holiday week, making it difficult to gauge total case numbers accurately.
Beshear reported 18 new deaths on Saturday, 21 on Sunday, and 29 on Monday. He also said that 2,446 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with 646 of them in intensive care units and 411 breathing with the assistance of a respirator. The current test positivity rate is 13.7%.
New census data now factors into overall pandemic statistics. Beshear said it helps to better understand demographics impacted by the virus including the total number of children eligible and population data for age demographics.
As of Monday, 2.61 million Kentuckians had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, representing 69% of all eligible to receive the vaccine.
Beshear said 45% of children from 12 to 17 years of age have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Beshear also announced on Monday that the Kentucky National Guard is now at 25 hospitals, and 66 of 69 hospitals are at critical staffing levels.