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Kentucky governor orders masks in schools as virus surges

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear imposed a mask-wearing mandate in Kentucky schools on Tuesday as the fast-spreading delta variant causes waves of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The Democratic governor said his executive order will require masks for anyone inside a Kentucky school, regardless of vaccination status for COVID-19.

“This is how we make sure we protect our children,” Beshear said at a news conference. “But this is also how we make sure that they stay in school.”

Last month, the governor recommended that school districts require mask-wearing in schools to minimize the risk of disruptions from the coronavirus. The new schoolhouse mandate came as Beshear announced 2,500 new COVID-19 cases statewide Tuesday due to the highly contagious delta variant. Escalating virus-related hospitalization rates are “absolutely alarming,” he said.

Beshear said his mask order for schools will continue for 30 days. Whether he extends the mandate will depend on the level of coronavirus cases.

“We are to the point where we cannot allow our kids to go into these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated and face this delta variant,” he said. “We have already seen … that our kids will not stay in school, they will not get in-person learning. We will have massive quarantines.”