(The Center Square) – With Kentucky facing a COVID-19 surge that Gov. Andy Beshear said is starting to grow exponentially, state officials have started to implement new policies in hopes of flattening that curve.
Starting Tuesday, state-operated health care facilities implemented mandatory masking policies. That includes the veteran nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and immediate care facilities.
At the same time, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is strongly encouraging employees and contractors who work at state-run health facilities to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. While the state will grant exceptions for medical or religious reasons, anyone unvaccinated will be required to take at least two COVID-19 tests a week.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander told reporters Monday he’s concerned about the new strain of the virus.
“This delta variant is real,” he said. “It is potent. We need to take precautions. We need to protect ourselves, our families and others.”
While Kentucky-run health facilities and other state buildings now have universal mask requirements, Beshear has not yet decided to take the next step and make it mandatory in other public settings. He’s also not contemplating a vaccine-or-required-test mandate for state employees, a step other states and the U.S. government have implemented recently.
Still, Beshear has called on some organizations, including school districts, to implement mask mandates as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now recommended.
Beshear was flabbergasted after he learned Carter County Schools announced earlier Monday it still would not require masks even after officials in the eastern Kentucky county delayed the start of its school year from this Thursday to Aug. 16 because of an increase in COVID-19 cases among students.
“My goodness, I really hope smarter heads prevail,” Beshear said. “For everybody else. I can tell you the delta variant is going to spread, but in this instance, you know kids already have it.”
Heading into this week, Beshear said the state’s positivity rate had risen for 38 straight days. What started at 1.8% has since shot up eight percentage points to 9.8% on Monday.