FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's worst COVID-19 surge is spreading rapidly among school-age children as the delta variant forces more school districts to cancel classes, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.
So far this month, more than 18,900 Kentucky youngsters ages 18 and younger have contracted the coronavirus, compared to 2,352 in the same month a year ago, the governor said.
“More kids are getting COVID right now than we ever thought imaginable,” Beshear said.
In one hard-hit eastern Kentucky school district, an instructional assistant died from COVID-19.
The latest batch of grim news Monday included record numbers of COVID-19 patients being treated in Kentucky hospitals, in intensive care units and on ventilators. The state reported more than 9,900 new coronavirus cases in the past three days and at least 56 new virus-related deaths.
“We continue to be hit harder and harder,” the governor said at a news conference.
The Bluegrass State is in the grips of its worst outbreak of the pandemic, the governor said, but he added that “this tragedy can be stopped” if the unvaccinated would get the COVID shots.
The governor also warned: "We don’t know where the peak is going to be yet.”
The highly contagious delta variant is spreading fastest among young Kentuckians, he said.
“If you are ages 10 to 19 right now, you are getting COVID at a much higher rate than any other part of our population,” Beshear said. "These are our school-age children.”
Growing numbers of Kentucky school districts are closing schools due to virus outbreaks and switching to nontraditional instructional days with students learning from home.
Meanwhile, the Lee County school district in eastern Kentucky was mourning the death of a staff member. Heather Antle, an instructional aide at Lee County Elementary, died Sunday.
Antle was an involved member of the school community who “brought great joy to the students and staff that she worked with,” Lee County Superintendent Sarah Wasson said in a statement posted on social media.
The Lee County district canceled in-person classes until Sept. 7 in response to coronavirus cases among students and teachers.
Beshear, while expressing condolences to Antle's family, urged Kentuckians to get vaccinated and wear masks to prevent the virus's spread in schools.
“There was a time when some argued COVID did not spread in schools," the governor said on social media. "That time should be over.”
“We must do everything in our power to prevent the spread of this virus in our schools, and vaccinations and masks are our greatest tools," he added. “Let’s do what’s right for our teachers.”