Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to Mandate Masks in All K-12 Schools

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed a mask mandate into effect on Tuesday, requiring all schools statewide to require masks on all staff and students.

Under the new mandate, anyone inside a Kentucky child care facility or school, pre-k included, will be required to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status.

Breaking: @GovAndyBeshear will sign an executive order today requiring everyone in child care facilities, pre-K and K-12 schools to wear a mask.

"We're to the point where we cannot allow our kids to go in to these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated and face this Delta variant."

— Ben Tobin (@Ben__Tobin) August 10, 2021

"This is how we make sure we protect our children, but this is also how we make sure that they stay in school," Beshear said Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Courier-Journal, dozens of Kentucky's school districts are scheduled to start school on Wednesday morning, so the mask mandate comes just in time.

Beshear also highlighted that Kentucky is in the midst of one of the fastest surges of COVID-19 cases yet, and on Monday he announced 1,301 new COVID-19 cases, and the total number of cases in the state hit 500,267.

And as all states across the country are ravaged by the new Delta variant, children—especially those unable to receive the vaccine—have seen an increase in hospitalizations.

COVID-19 is "hitting kids in a way that we haven't seen before," Beshear said.

Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville has seen an uptick in children admissions in the last week alone. On Tuesday, the hospital recorded 10 pediatric patients with COVID-19, four in intensive care and two on ventilators.

"The vast majority of patients that are requiring hospitalization are those unvaccinated patients," said Charlotte Ipsan, chief administrative office for Norton Women's and Children's Hospital. "We continue to stress that vaccination continues to be our number one fight against hospitalization, against this COVID rate."

Newsweek was directed to a recent press release that featured Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

"This is the fastest and steepest rise in cases of the entire pandemic," Stack said. "We had a 43 percent increase in hospitalized COVID cases in Kentucky in one week. We had a 32 percent increase in the number of hospitalized COVID patients in the intensive care units in one week. We had a 61 percent increase in number of COVID-19 patients on a ventilator in just one week. At this rate, in two weeks we will blow past our previous peaks."

"Kids are not immortal," Kentucky Children's Hospital Physician in Chief Dr. Scottie Day said, "It should be rare that a child would need to go to the hospital."

According to the Courier Journal, several school districts disregarded the governor's pushes for all school districts to require masks, wishing to leave the decision up to the students' parents.

"I'm going to have the courage to do what I know is right to protect our children," Beshear said on Tuesday.

Multiple school districts had implemented their own mandates prior to the governor's announcement. In Warren County, Superintendent Rob Clayton announced on Monday night masks would be required after roughly 700 students and staff went into quarantine less than a week before the school year was to begin.

Beshear stated on Tuesday that "without intervention," the state of Kentucky is on track to see its highest number of hospitalizations in the entire pandemic in two weeks, reported the Courier Journal.

"We are at an alarming place," Beshear said.

Updated 08/11/2021, 10:27 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comment from the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed a statewide mask mandate for all schools and childcare facilities on Tuesday. Beshear speaks at the Center for African American Heritage during a bill signing event on April 9 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images