FRANKFORT, Ky. — School boards in 96% of Kentucky’s school districts have extended mask requirements as Senate Bill 1, which eliminates the statewide mask mandate in public schools, takes effect.
What You Need To Know
- A growing number of school districts have extended mask requirements as Kentucky struggles to curb one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 surges
- At least 96% of districts have opted to continue requiring masks in schools, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association’s latest count
- The statewide mask mandate approved by the state school board ends Friday
- Six of the top ten counties in the U.S. with the highest rate of new infections are in Kentucky
As of Friday morning, at least 165 of the state’s 171 public school districts had opted to continue requiring masks in schools, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association.
As of 8 a.m Friday, 96 percent of Kentucky's 171 school districts have announced they will continue to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks now that SB1 is in effect eliminating the statewide mask mandate in Kentucky public schools. pic.twitter.com/anuS3uFtBt— KSBA (@ksbanews) September 17, 2021
Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature last week empowered school boards with setting masking policies in their districts. The legislature voted to scrap a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023. As a result, the statewide mask mandate approved by the state school board ends Friday.
Gov. Andy Beshear has exhorted school leaders to keep mask requirements in place to protect students, staff and their communities. The Democratic governor used mask mandates to combat previous coronavirus surges, but lawmakers blocked his ability to take such unilateral action.
Kentucky has become a coronavirus hotspot with one of the highest rates of new cases in the nation. Six of the top 10 counties in the U.S. with the highest rate of new infections are in Kentucky.
School-age children are contracting the virus at a higher rate than any other age group in Kentucky, while the statewide vaccination rate among 12- to 17-year-olds is the lowest of any age group.
The Caverna Independent district became the latest school system to suffer the virus-related death of a staff member. Amanda Nutt tested positive for COVID-19 the weekend before the school term started in late August, Caverna High School Principal Chris Crain said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Nutt was “loved and cherished by her students, and she always wanted the best for them,” Crain said. Nutt was not vaccinated, he said.
The Caverna school board decided Tuesday to continue requiring that masks be worn in schools, regardless of vaccination status. The district said masks will be required as long as the county remains in the high-incidence “red zone” for virus cases and until it’s out of “red” for at least seven consecutive days. At that point, the issue will be revisited.
Lee County schools, which has had two staff members die from COVID-19, also announced Wednesday it would keep its universal masking policy for the time being. The eastern Kentucky district will reconsider the rule in October, with the hope of changing the policy if the county were to move out of the “red zone,” Lee County schools Superintendent Sarah Wasson said. The local school board voted Tuesday to maintain universal masking.
“We are in a time right now when incidence rates are high and universal masking is helping us maintain in-person learning,” Wasson said in a letter posted to social media.
In response to supply shortages of monoclonal antibody treatments, state governments will now supervise the distribution of a capped number of treatments delivered to them each week, Beshear announced Tuesday. Kentucky health care providers will no longer be able to order the treatments directly.
“I have a concern that some Kentuckians who are hesitant about the vaccine are placing faith in monoclonal antibodies,” Beshear said. “That thing you’re counting on might not be available. What is available, and there are no supply issues at all, are these safe and effective vaccines.”
Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, explained that while the treatments offer a temporary immune boost, they do not teach a patient’s body how to create its own antibodies like the vaccines.
“It’s a lot easier to get vaccinated than to get monoclonal antibodies,” Stack added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.