In response to the dramatic rise in coronavirus cases across the Commonwealth, Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order Tuesday to require all individuals in K-12 schools and childcare centers to wear masks. This executive order will be reevaluated after 30 days.
Gov. Beshear announced 2,500 new positive cases of COVID-19 today, which is the highest number since January 2021. Kentucky’s positivity rate has now exceeded ten percent, with 108 counties considered in the red zone. As of yesterday, Kentucky has reached over a half-million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The number of Kentuckians in the hospital with COVID-19 cases has been doubling every two weeks, said Beshear, and in two more weeks, he believes Kentucky will have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic.
As a result of these statistics, Beshear said, “we cannot keep our kids in school if we are unwilling to put on a mask. And, we cannot allow our kids to go into these schools unprotected, unvaccinated.”
The governor applauded the 48 school districts across Kentucky for already requiring masks after his recommendation. However, Beshear said this is not enough to keep students and communities safe. He shared that one school district has had 95 positive cases and 700 students in quarantine after just three days of school without masks.
Frankfort Independent School Superintendent Dr. Huston Barber spoke at the press conference in support of in-person learning with masks. “This is about our children and the opportunity for them to be successful,” Barber said.
As of Tuesday, 2,400,000 Kentuckians are vaccinated. However, “our rate of vaccination is no where close to the rate of increase,” said Governor Beshear urging everyone to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the coronavirus and the Delta variant.
The governor said he has three goals moving forward: to save lives and protect the health of people, continue in class learning, and continue economic resurgence.
During the press conference, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts said, “employers are doing everything they can to keep their workforce safe and encourage vaccinations—the one thing we know will work in protecting against this virus.”
Kentucky Chamber Chairman Winston Griffin, CEO of Laurel Grocery Company, also spoke to encourage vaccinations and highlight the business community’s efforts to keep Kentuckians safe.
“The Chamber recognizes the importance of masking in schools at this time, because masking not only keeps our children and teachers safe but also because of its impact on the workforce,” said Griffin. “We learned last year that when a student is exposed to the virus and needs to quarantine, this has an impact on the work-life of parents. Masking can help mitigate these issues and keep us all safer. But the best way to keep us safe and keep our economy moving is for all Kentuckians to get vaccinated.”
Griffin detailed an initiative launched by the Kentucky Chamber last week, COVID Stops Here, to recognize employers that have reached milestone vaccination rates and reward employees by hosting a sweepstakes to celebrate their accomplishment.
Learn more about the initiative at kychamber.com/covidstopshere.