FRANKFORT, Ky. — Following a change in guidance from the CDC this week, Gov. Andy Beshear is urging all Kentucky school districts to implement a universal mask policy.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Andy Beshear wants schools to implement a mask mandate for all students and staff

  • The recommendation comes after the CDC said Tuesday that all K-12 schools should require masks

  • Cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky have gone up significantly in July, fueled by cases in unvaccinated people

  • Kentucky's largest school district, Jefferson County Public Schools, already plans to implement a universal mask policy for the start of the school year

The change in guidance comes as the incidence rate of new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky is 6.5 times where it was a month ago. On June 28, there were no counties designated as a red zone – on July 28, there were 36.

"We have changed, in the blink of an eye, from a quiet, calm state, to a horribly inflamed state," said Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

Beshear already asked schools this week to require unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks and strongly recommended a universal policy. Now, he wants districts to require masks for everyone, mirroring what the CDC said Tuesday.

It’s not a mandate, but Beshear said there will be consequences if schools don’t follow suit.

“Number 1, you’re going to have a lot of kids in quarantine. Number 2, you’re going to forfeit a lot of your sports games, your matches,” he said. “Number 3, the more people that get COVID, even young, the more likelihood there is that one of them gets hurt.”

Beshear already revived the mask requirement for state offices, but Republicans quickly pushed back: Treasurer Allison Ball said her office won’t require masks, and neither will Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and his staff at with Department of Agriculture.

Beshear said they won’t face any discipline, but the rate of COVID-19 in Franklin County is simply too high not to wear masks.

“At some point, you have to do the right thing by your people and not score political points,” Beshear said. “This is an easy one. it’s the right thing.”

Beshear said masks will help curb the delta variant, even if people are burnt out on wearing one.  

“If somebody says, 'I have done everything you’ve asked governor, and I got vaccinated, stayed healthy at home, I wore my mask, I did it all, why should i have to do this now?'" he said. “And the answer is the battle is just not won yet, and we can’t quit before it’s over.”

If cases continue climbing the way they have been, he said a statewide mask mandate is still on the table.

Since the beginning of March, more than 94% of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky have been unvaccinated people. More than 91% of hospitalizations and more than 88% of deaths have come from the unvaccinated as well.