With virus ramping up, Beshear offers recommendations for schools

Gov. Andy Beshear points out a higher vaccination rate in older Kentuckians than younger ones during Monday’s press conference at the Capitol.

FRANKFORT – (KT) In the wake of explosive growth in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear has issued recommendations, but not mandates, as schools prepare for the fall semester, which will begin in the coming weeks.

“The Delta variant is real, it is significant, to those unvaccinated it is deadly, and in Kentucky it is escalating, and escalating very quickly,” Beshear stated during a Monday Capitol press conference.

To get similar numbers, he said you have to go back to March.  “Three weeks ago, we had 1,844 announced cases.  The week after that, 3,217 cases.  This last week, 5,662 cases.  The speed of escalation is also a concern.”

He also noted the vaccination rate is higher in older Kentuckians than in younger ones.

On Monday, another 783 new cases were reported to state public officials, bringing the pandemic total to 476,650.  There were also two more deaths, raising the number of Kentuckians lost to COVID-19 to 7.319.  The state’s positivity rate, which was below two percent on July 1, jumped to 7.89%.

As a result, in order to reach the priority of having safe, in-person instruction for the maximum number of days possible, and in consultation with the Kentucky Department of Education, Beshear announced three recommendations for when classes resume; while not closing the door on mandates, if the situation worsens.

• School districts should require all unvaccinated students and unvaccinated adults to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings.

• School districts should require all students under 12 years of age, since the vaccines are not approved for use by them, to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings.

• School districts wishing to minimize risk of educational and athletic disruption should require all students and all adults to wear a mask while in classrooms and other indoor school settings.

“Those working in and learning in our schools know what to do to keep in-person learning going and to do so safely. We have already proven that,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Jason Glass.  “As conditions have shifted again with the rise of the Delta variant and reinfections, we need to call once again upon your courage, dedication and commitment to keep our schools open for school this fall.”

State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack announced a new K-12 School COVID-19 Testing Program, which is a voluntary program offered by the Kentucky Department for Public Health in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for Kentucky K-12 schools to assist in reopening safely for in-person instruction.

“We’ve been given $134 million by the federal government to create a testing program for K-12 schools, public and private, throughout the entire commonwealth,” said Dr. Stack. “I urge everyone who operates a school out there to explore the options and make testing available to keep yourselves safe.”

Testing, which will be available for the entire 2021-2022 school year, is limited to staff and students of Kentucky K-12 public, private and charter schools.  It includes school district employees and staff, such as bus drivers, maintenance, office staff or as determined by the school administrator.  There will be no cost to the schools or individuals.

(By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)