Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order on Tuesday recommending that all school districts offer some type of in-person learning starting March 1 or within a week of vaccinations for school personnel. The order recommends that classes resume seven days after teachers and staff have received their second COVID-19 vaccinations, though the decision is being left to districts.
The order also states that masks must be worn at all times in schools and during transportation to and from schools.
“This is one of the number one ways that we can keep everybody in that school safe,” Beshear said. “And it’s going to be incredibly important, especially for districts that may go back for the first time, that this is strictly enforced as all of the studies that suggest there is low transmission are of districts that had and enforced a strong mask mandate.”
The order includes guidance for reducing density of students in classes, evaluating ventilation in school buildings, and keeping students in cohorts, or pods, by avoiding classroom changes. Beshear said it may be challenging for some schools to maintain social distancing, but (schools) should aim to reduce density in classrooms and on buses.
“You shouldn’t be switching classes during the day with a lot of others going out into the hall and coming back in, having lunch with people outside of your class,” he said.
Schools are required to continue offering virtual learning options for students who want the option.
“And it cannot discriminate against them in terms of courses that they can take, and it cannot negatively impact their student achievement,” Beshear said.
Beshear reported 1,497 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The state’s positivity rate is 6.3%. For several weeks in a row, new cases and the state’s positivity rate have been declining.
Beshear announced 16 new deaths bringing the commonwealth’s death toll to 4,476.
Multiple winter storms reduced the amount of vaccines the state received last week — only 6,825 were delivered. But Beshear said 152,710 vaccines will arrive this week. The commonwealth has vaccinated 564,994 people.
Intensive care units in parts of eastern and southern Kentucky remain near capacity. Elsewhere ICU beds and hospitalizations remain steady but are not nearing capacity. A total of 894 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the state and 242 COVID-19 patients are in ICU.