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'It's time to sound the alarm' | Gov. Andy Beshear signs executive order mandating masks in all Kentucky schools

Those were the words Gov. Andy Beshear used, describing the rapid spread of COVID-19’s delta variant throughout Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. —

Tuesday, August 10

All students, staff and visitors are now required to wear masks while in Kentucky schools.

After weeks recommending districts around the commonwealth to have universal masking, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday: Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, visiting any Kentucky school will now have to wear a mask inside.

The order will also apply to public and private preschools and child care centers with anyone over two years old.

"We are to the point where we cannot allow our kids to go into these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated and face this Delta variant," Gov. Beshear said.

Beshear said he is standing behind local leadership who may be criticized or receive parental pushback because of the order -- adding that the contagious variant poses a threat to in-person learning, especially among kids too young to get vaccinated, if masks aren't worn. 

Some schools across the state already have been dealing with quarantines.

“Everybody going into our schools, daycares and the rest needs to be wearing mask so they can stay in,” he said. “I strongly suggest local leadership – strongly support it. This is where we provide the united front.”

Beshear said there will be religious exemptions that will be explained in the full executive order.

Following the announcements, parents across the state shared their thoughts on the move.

For John Paul II Academy mom Emily Gentry, she saw virtual learning take a toll on her now 3rd-grade daughter Elliot's school experience.

"She lost that spark that she had, and it was sad and it was scary as a parent to watch," Gentry said.

Parents like Gentry welcome the move because of what she says could happen, especially for immunocompromised students. 

But some posting on the WHAS11 Facebook page have differering opinions - with one parent saying, "Little kids won't wear masks all day. This will be a problem."

Another saying just teachers wearing masks worked well last year, and that her Pre-K child will not be wearing one inside.

Rise of the delta variant

“It’s time to sound the alarm,” Beshear said in a tweet before beginning his press conference.

The rapid spread of the delta variant has impacted Kentucky, a couple of months after the state was seeing a downward trend.

The surge of new cases has been concerning to state health officials.

On Tuesday, 2,500 new COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 11.05% were reported. Beshear said those numbers had not been seen since early January.

Seven deaths were also reported.

Beshear said hospitalizations have also surged due to the delta variant.

About 1,251 Kentuckians have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Gov. Beshear said that’s the highest it’s ever been and numbers have doubled every two weeks.

“Without intervention, with the rate we are at, we expect to have the most Kentuckians hospitalized due to COVID in two weeks than we have had at any time during this pandemic,” Beshear said.

The uptick in cases is also causing hospitalizations in kids. Officials said about 192 children have been hospitalized, a 45.7% increase from the previous week.

“As we have been seeing more patients with the delta variant, we have had to deal with a new problem: younger patients who become unstable more unpredictably,” Miriam Haas, RN, BSN, nurse manager at Norton Brownsboro Hospital in Louisville, said. 

“These patients tend not to have other health issues that contribute to their illness – they don’t have anything in common other than the delta variant and the fact that many of them were not vaccinated. Many of our COVID patients say that if they had it to do over again, they would have received the vaccine. As a nurse, this has been the most difficult thing I have been through in my 13-year career. The things we have seen will never leave me.”

The surge of hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 is causing children’s hospitals to become overwhelmed, with recent CDC data showing an average of 225 children with COVID-19 admitted to U.S. hospitals every day over the past week. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 93,000 children and teenagers were infected with COVID-19 from July 29 to Aug. 5.

Credit: Team Kentucky
In this map provided by state health officials shows the growth of the virus due to the delta variant in a month period. 108 of Kentucky's 120 counties are in the red zone.

Dr. Steven Stack also raised the alarm at how fast virus cases have grown in a month. On July 9, Kentucky only had one red county and now, 108 of the state's 120 counties are considered "red zones." 

To read the full report, click here

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