Gov. Beshear urges school districts to keep universal mask policies

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As COVID-19 cases continue to drop across Kentucky, so do mask requirements inside some WAVE Country classrooms.

On Monday, Governor Andy Beshear urged school districts to continue to practice universal masking, despite the decline in new cases, to ensure cases don’t rise again.

“It’s the largest group that comes together with the lowest vaccination rate and the most poorly ventilated group, and then goes back to parents and nobody is wearing masks, nor should they, but you can see how that spread can work,” Beshear said. “We want to protect especially the most susceptible; kids that have various conditions that may make them susceptible, and teachers and administrators,” he continued. “We’ve lost 50 of them. I don’t want to lose a 51st or 52nd.”

However, Hardin County Schools set a masking procedure in August and has continued to follow it after Beshear’s universal mask mandate in Kentucky schools was overturned.

In the district, if the county’s incidence rate, or the rate of new, daily cases per 100,000 people falls below 50, masks become optional, but strongly recommended for students and staff. The county’s current incidence rate is 46.2, so masks are not required inside Hardin County classrooms for now.

John Wright, a spokesperson for HCS said the mask requirement tentatively lifted on Oct. 12, and since then COVID-19 cases in schools have continued to drop.

“We wouldn’t do things (such as the mask policy) if we believed we were putting students at risk,” Wright said.

HCS’s mask procedure was reviewed by health experts, according to Wright, and the district continues to check in periodically as situations change.

However, mother of two, Sarah Pence disagrees with the policy.

“I understand that people don’t want their children to have to wear the masks, but masks only work if everybody wears them, especially in a group of people like small children in elementary school that can’t be vaccinated for it,” Pence said.

She has three family members with autoimmune diseases and told WAVE 3 News she cannot risk her children spreading COVID-19 to them, so Pence pulled one of her kids out of the district and is considering options for the other.

Pence said even though the incidence rate is below 50 and the district is following its original policy, temporarily lifting the mask requirement when it did was “bad timing,” following the return from fall break.

“That’s not even getting into the fact that not even a week prior to (the mask requirement tentatively lifting), one of the teachers at my daughter’s school passed away from COVID, so it was all really, really bad timing in my opinion,” Pence said.

Wright added Elizabethtown Independent Schools has the same mask policy as Hardin County, creating consistency for all students in the county. Both districts’ superintendents agreed on the procedure and posted a video explaining how it worked in August.

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