Education Health

The Kentucky Department of Education says all students, staff and visitors to K-12 schools should be required to wear a mask indoors for the upcoming school year. The latest recommendation announced Thursday is in line with Tuesday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said masking is critical as infection rates rise due to the delta variant of COVID-19. The state’s positivity rate surged from under 2% in early July to more than 8% Thursday.

“Everyone in the K-12 setting, in indoor spaces, should wear a mask. Period,” Stack said during a Thursday press briefing.

The universal masking recommendation is a step more cautious than the state’s and CDC’s previous guidance, which recommended mask requirements for at least all unvaccinated people in K-12 settings. 

Many Kentucky school districts have already refused to institute mask requirements, even for unvaccinated people. Beshear urged local leaders to heed the advice of health experts.

“You teach science in your classroom; you should have to consider it when making decisions,” he said during the briefing.

Last school year, Beshear mandated masks in schools, but he says he’s not considering that option this year. The governor’s previous coronavirus measures faced a backlash from conservatives and drew multiple lawsuits from people who said the measures infringed on their personal freedoms. The Republican-led Kentucky General Assembly limited the Democratic governor’s power to issue coronavirus restrictions earlier this year. Some of those laws are currently blocked as the Kentucky Supreme Court considers their legality.

In Jefferson County Public Schools, the board of education voted Tuesday to institute a universal masking policy.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.