FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear wants schools to be a safe place for kids, but with coronavirus cases surging, he said the best way to do that is for kids to wear masks.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Andy Beshear ordered every school district, pre-K, and childcare center to require masks for everyone in the building

  • The executive order follows a surge in coronavirus cases that started in the beginning of July

  • Several Republicans came out against the order

  • Lawmakers put limits on the governor’s emergency power, but those laws are pending a decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court

“Sending unvaccinated children to sit in a full classroom in a poorly-ventilated building is like sending them to a chicken pox party,” Beshear said in a video posted to his social media channels Wednesday. “Except instead of chicken pox, it’s the third-leading cause of death in America that you’re exposing them to, at a time when it spreads faster than ever.”

Beshear issued an executive order Tuesday requiring anyone inside a school, pre-K or childcare center to wear a mask.

Several Republicans immediately criticized the move, including state Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) who said he was bombarded with questions from concerned parents.

“Because their kid is two or three and not quite potty trained successfully yet but is going to be asked to put on a mask, or they’ve got a really strong-willed child that never wants to wear a mask, much less wear it all day long,” he said.

Westerfield questions whether masks are truly effective in schools, and whether or not they have a negative impact on kids.

“It diminishes their learning,” Westerfield claimed. “It diminishes their social interaction and their growth in that regard. It changes the way kids learn.”

Lawmakers put limits on the governor’s emergency powers last session, but those new laws are pending a challenge at the Kentucky Supreme Court. Justices heard arguments on the issue back in April and haven’t made a decision yet.  

Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a brief with the Supreme Court Wednesday, urging justices to weigh in on the matter.

“The governor does not have to choose between following the science and following the law,” Cameron said in a statement. “The two can and should work together.”

Both Republican legislative leaders also issued statements blasting the new school mask mandate.

“It is clear that he lacks any respect for local school officials’ decisions to provide the best education possible for their students based on the circumstances within their communities,” Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said.

House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) said the legislature “spoke clearly” when it passed laws restricting the governor’s emergency power and said local school districts should be able to decide on their own.

“The Governor may not agree with their choices, but he must respect their authority,” Osborne said. “Instead, at the eleventh hour, he chose to politicize this issue and flout their decisions by issuing an executive order with extremely questionable legal standing.”

House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham, and Angie Hatton released a joint statement supporting Beshear’s move.

"If we do not act prudently now, we will have no choice but to act drastically later," the statement said. "We cannot just wish this pandemic away, because it endangers us all."