Gov. Beshear issues executive order on return to in-person learning

Gov. Beshear updates vaccine rollout, COVID-19 response in Ky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled an executive order Tuesday recommending schools in Kentucky return to in-person learning or, if they are already using a hybrid model, consider expanding in-person learning within that model.

Public and private schools are encouraged to return to, or expand, in-person learning either by March 1 or seven days after district personnel have received their second vaccine dose.

Kentucky Schools Update
Kentucky Schools Update (Source: Kentucky Department of Public Health)

The executive order is premised on Kentucky’s accelerated pace vaccinating teachers, a pace Beshear said is the nation’s fastest — “and I don’t think it’s close,” Beshear said.

The state prioritized vaccinating teachers at the beginning of Phase 1b, which began in January. Few if any other states did the same. Most of Kentucky’s teachers had already received their first dose by Feb. 1, the date Ohio began vaccinating teachers.

Nearly a month later, all teachers in Kentucky who opted to receive the vaccine have either received their second dose or will receive it in the coming weeks.

“At the end of the day we didn’t vaccinate our educators for nothing,” the governor said. “We did this because we all know that we need some form of in-person learning.

“It’s gotta be safe. It’s gotta include a lot of people in putting together what it’ll look like. But we believe post-second dose, we are moving — and we’ve gotta move — in that direction.”

The Kentucky Department of Education issued a comprehensive, 136-page manual (KDE COVID-19 Guidance 2.0) which will assist with the shift back into school buildings, according to Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.

All but six of Kentucky’s 171 school districts have returned with some form of in-person instruction. At least 38 districts have all students in-person four or five days, with the rest using some form of hybrid learning model.

Final say about what learning model a district adopts remains with the district. The executive order contains only recommendations and guidance, including enforcing a strong mask mandate.

The order comes as COVID-19 continues to decline in Kentucky, as shown in falling cases, hospitalizations, deaths and, importantly, county incident rates.

Fewer than half of Kentucky’s counties are ‘red’ on the latest incident rate map, with more dropping off every day. That means the state’s ‘red zone recommendations,’ which include guidance on in-person learning, are increasingly irrelevant.

In that respect, Tuesday’s order seems to reaffirm existing guidance rather than signal a turnabout.

It also marks yet another departure from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s approach to schools, teachers, vaccinations and the return to in-person learning, an approach that has proved contentious and occasionally petty.

COVID in Ky.

Kentucky recorded 1,497 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 new virus-related deaths.

The share of deaths among long-term care residents continues to decline. “That means vaccinations work,” Beshear said. “We are already seeing it. We see it in these numbers.”

The current positivity rate of 6.3 percent is the lowest since Nov. 4.

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