FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On the eve of the 2022 legislative session, Governor Andy Beshear said he would like to see the Kentucky General Assembly return to him the authority to impose a mask requirement in schools.
"I'm willing to be the unpopular guy if it means that my kids and everybody elses' are not only protected in schools," Beshear said. "But they also can stay in school."
The governor made the comments during his first COVID-19 briefing of 2022, which has started on a sour note in terms of case numbers. The positivity rate reported Monday was 20.72%, the highest that it has ever been during the pandemic.
"Omicron has not only come to the commonwealth," Beshear said. "It has hit us harder in terms of escalation of cases than anything we have seen to date."
The governor said the rapidly spreading omicron variant accounts for about 80% of all COVID-19 cases in the state. He said it is vital that settings like schools adopt universal masking to help curb the spread.
"I'm telling you if you open a school this week and you're not requiring masks," Dr. Steven Stack, M.D., the state's top health official, said. "You're going to infect the whole building in the first two weeks. It's going to happen that fast."
Beshear admitted that it is unlikely that the General Assembly grants him the power to mandate masks in schools.
That power, among others, was stripped when the Republican-led General Assembly passed two bills limiting the governor's ability to respond to the pandemic unilaterally. Those bills survived the governor's objections when the legislature overrode his vetoes at the end of a special session in September.