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'The answer to the pandemic is vaccines' | Gov. Beshear recommends masking of unvaccinated students, staff in classrooms

The governor said this isn’t about arguing or playing politics, but to have a safe school year as possible.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration is outlining guidance for schools to have as many in-person days as possible as cases of the Delta variant escalates in Kentucky.

Beshear said there have been 30 straight days of increases with a positivity rate of 8%.

Health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said positivity rates and case numbers have quadrupled since the beginning of July, in part because of the Delta variant has a much higher transmissibility rate.

Officials said hospitalizations and re-infections are also up, and Stack emphasizes the important of vaccination even for people who have had COVID. 

"This is a problem in an unvaccinated community much much more so than a vaccinated community," he said. "I would sure hope we would all want to celebrate more birthdays than funerals, but unfortunately a lot of people are choosing more funerals over birthdays."  

The governor said this isn’t about arguing or playing politics but to have a safe school year as possible.

He outlined the three new recommendations.

  • School districts should require all unvaccinated students and adults to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings.
  • School districts should require all students under 12-years-old to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings.
  • School districts wishing to optimize safety and minimize risk of educational and athletic disruption should require all students and all adults to wear a mask while in the classroom and other indoor settings.

“I think these are pretty clear. The science points to them. It’s all about the priority. If we truly want to maximize in-person days, these are the steps school districts need to take,” Gov. Beshear said.

Beshear said the state hadn’t felt the need to issue mandates to schools, instead relying on the districts to prioritize days in school.

"Do we have a school district that's going to say they have a priority other than as many in person learning days?" Beshear said. "Our expectation would be that our school districts jump on board. Again there is only one right answer that protects the kids."  

He continued to stress the importance of Kentuckians getting vaccinated. 

'The answer to the pandemic is vaccines," he said. 

Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman who also serves as the Kentucky Department of Education commissioner released a letter Monday also outlining guidance. Those include:

  • Prioritize in-person learning.
  • Encourage and promote vaccination.
  • Use layered prevention strategies.
  • Masks should be worn by all people age 2 and older who are not vaccinated when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Presently this would include everyone between the ages of 2 and 12.
  • Maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in indoor spaces.
  • Continue screening, testing, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, staying at home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection efforts.
  • Students and staff staying at home when they have signs of infectious illness and referral to their health care provider for testing and care.
  • Local monitoring of community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and outbreak occurrence to guide decisions on prevention strategies.

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