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Unmasking Kentucky: The new normal at camps, on-campus

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Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 19:19:13-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — One might argue that the biggest change from last week to today was the abundance of sunshine we had on Monday. Others are focusing on the other major change; the end of Kentucky’s mask mandate. Governor Andy Beshear ended many COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, which gave summer camps and the University of Kentucky's on-campus experience a much different feeling today.

“We’ve been going at this hard for 15 months,” said Jay Blanton, the University of Kentucky’s Executive Director for Public Relations. “We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do to keep our community safe, and we’re going to keep that as a priority obviously, but now we’re moving to a new phase,” he continued.

That phase includes no mask mandate on campus unless when inside a UK Healthcare building. Students will no longer have to be tested or screened. The new guidance applies only to those who’ve been vaccinated.

The university, at this time, won’t be mandating such given the high rate at which Lexington’s citizens have received the vaccine.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, we will still ask you to do some things,” Blanton added.

Over on Richmond Road, golf teaching professional John Dickson is happy the mask mandate has been lifted so he can get back to teaching. This week is one of many that are scheduled for the junior golf camp at Lakeside Golf Club.

“It’s just great that we’re able to do that; to teach the way a golf profession should teach somebody,” he said.

Dickson wears his mask while working closely with the kids, just to be safe.

“Parents send their kids to us for eight hours, so safety is the number-one priority,” he said before saying having fun is the second-biggest priority.

“Just that fact that they’re outside having fun, not having to worry about COVID, or restrictions is awesome,” Dickson said.

Blanton noted that everyone found a way to be resourceful since last March, even inventing some new methods, but he said he’s not feeling the need to be on a ‘zoom’ call anytime soon.

Blanton said the last year was incredibly hard on the university’s decision-makers. They have 50,000 people they’re responsible for here between students and employees. Then there’s the on-campus Albert Chandler hospital, whose staff they did not want to burden by causing a massive spike in positive cases stemming from a less-than-well-thought-out decision.

“From President (Eli) Capilouto on down it was very stressful,” Blanton said. “The challenge was this was not just the health and safety aspect, which was tremendous as you know, but we were continually operating with more unknowns than knowns,” he explained.

But today, we finally have some more knowns.

“Today starts that process for us of really pushing forward with more normal operations,” Blanton added.