In response to the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Aug. 10 an executive order requiring face coverings in Kentucky’s public and private schools, regardless of vaccination status.
“This move is supported by every layer of public health, by medical organizations, local health department leaders, businesses and education leaders. It is also supported by the Kentucky Chamber, representing 3,800 member businesses across the Commonwealth,” Beshear said during the afternoon media briefing. “This is a united front of saving lives, keeping our kids in school and keeping our economy and workforce going.”
According to Executive Order 2021-585, all teachers, staff, students and visitors must cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when inside a public or private preschool, Head Start, elementary, middle or high school in Kentucky. The order extends to masking inside of vehicles used for transportation, such as school buses.
“This is how we make sure we protect our children,” Beshear said. “This is also how we make sure that they stay in school.”
Children under the age of 2, and any person with a disability or physical or mental impairment that prevents them from safely wearing a face covering, are exempt from the order. The order includes additional groups and circumstances exempt from the mask requirement.
“Our primary goal is to keep our students safe while prioritizing in-person learning, which our students both crave and need,” said Commissioner of Education Jason E Glass. “We have been unambiguous that our guidance and decisions here at the department will be based on science and upon recommendations from public health organizations. Besides vaccinations, which our students under 12 are not yet eligible for, masking is one of the most effective virus mitigation strategies we can deploy.”
The executive order is effective as of 4 p.m. ET Aug. 10 for 30 days and is subject to renewal.
The Kentucky Department of Education’s Local Superintendents Advisory Council and the Kentucky Board of Education will convene on Thursday, Aug. 12, to consider an emergency regulation related to face coverings in schools.
“With strong and consistent precautions in place, Kentucky’s schools have proven that we can safely open for in-person instruction,” Glass said. “The governor’s executive order and the Kentucky Board of Education’s pending emergency regulation to require masking both put the health and learning of Kentucky’s children first, and I support them unconditionally.”
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