FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Gov. Andy Beshear has released a video statement following his decision on Tuesday to require masks at Kentucky schools and daycares for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
The governor called the spread of the delta variant "alarming" and that hospitalizations are doubling every two weeks, which is what led to him signing the executive order requiring masks for all students, staff, and visitors at Kentucky schools and daycares.
"I know it's not fun, but sending unvaccinated children to sit in a full classroom in a poorly ventilated building is like sending them to a chickenpox party," said Gov. Beshear in a nearly 3-minute response. "Except instead of chickenpox, it's the third leading cause of death in America that you're exposing them to at a time when it spreads faster than ever."
The order states that all individuals in child care, pre-K, or K-12 schools must wear a face mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
"It is a fact that masks work," he said. "You cannot get an MD or even a BS on Facebook, you can just read a lot of BS on Facebook."
On Tuesday, Gov. Beshear said cases of children becoming sick from the virus and experiencing serious symptoms have also increased.
"We are at the point where you cannot allow our kids to go into these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated, and face this delta variant," the governor said.
The school mask mandate is in place for 30 days but could be renewed at the end of that stretch. Gov. Beshear says a statewide mask mandate for people when indoors in public spaces could be on the table if hospitalizations and numbers continue to climb.
According to state data, 108 of Kentucky's 120 counties have high transmission levels of COVID-19.
"It is everywhere and we all need to act like we are in that red zone," the governor said.
2,500 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday. Seven more people died from the virus, bringing the total number of those who died from COVID-19 in the state to 7,394. The state's current positivity rate is 11%.
Gov. Beshear says 1,251 Kentuckians are in the hospital right now from the virus, 339 Kentuckians are in the ICU, and 168 are on a ventilator.
"Without intervention, at the rate that we're currently at, we expect to have the most Kentuckians hospitalized due to COVID in two weeks than we have had at any time during this pandemic," said Gov. Beshear.
"We had the highest COVID admission rate in one of our local hospitals today that we've seen this entire pandemic," said Crystal Miller with the WEDCO District Health Department. "The COVID unit is full. Our local hospital CEO told me that his day begins and ends with texts from other CEOs around Kentucky asking if there are beds available to transfer patients. This is the most concerning thing that I have been told since the pandemic began."
The Kentucky Board of Education has announced they will hold a special meeting on Thursday, and "Face Coverings in School Facilities" is on the agenda. The KBE has statutory authority to manage all common or public schools in the Commonwealth and all programs operated in those schools.
2,376,891 Kentuckians have been vaccinated. Gov. Beshear says Woodford County is the first county in Kentucky to get 70% of its population vaccinated.