Kentucky school district cancels classes due to COVID cases
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky school district canceled classes amid a COVID-19 outbreak Monday while the governor warned that virus-related hospitalizations appear headed toward a pandemic high as the fast-spreading delta variant causes a growing surge of infections.
Gov. Andy Beshear reported more than 6,770 new statewide coronavirus cases in the past three days and 25 more virus-related deaths — including 11 people 55 or younger.
Saying Kentucky is approaching a “critical point,” Beshear warned that the state is likely to have more COVID-19 patients hospitalized by the end of this week than at any point during the pandemic.
With hospitals filling up, it means “if you’re harmed in another way, there is less staff and maybe not even a bed for you to get the help that you need,” the governor said in a social media video.
“So take this seriously. Don’t fight the things that we know,” he said while imploring the unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 shots. “Help us to protect one another. Do your part. The lives and the health of other Kentuckians depend on you.”
In his latest pitch for vaccinations, Republican U.S. Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he remains “perplexed by the reluctance of Americans to take the vaccine.” During a home state appearance, the Kentucky lawmaker said the unvaccinated account for most hospitalizations.
“That’s a fact; that’s not an opinion,” McConnell said. “So I’m still hoping that more and more Americans witnessing this resurgence will get vaccinated. I think that’s clearly the answer.”
In the latest sign the virus surge is causing disruptions, Lee County public schools in eastern Kentucky closed for three days through Wednesday. Classes were canceled to allow time for virus test results and to enable some staff members who went into quarantine last week to possibly return to school Thursday, Superintendent Sarah Wasson said on social media.
“This will be a tough year and we don’t want to have to shut down this early, but if we can determine who is positive now, we believe we can stay in school longer,” she said Sunday.
One child in kindergarten, one first-grader and one fourth grader tested positive, Wasson said. Students within 6 feet (2 meters) of the infected children for more than 15 minutes were asked to quarantine, she said. Five staff members also tested positive, she said.
“While this is not a huge number, the number of staff that have had to quarantine or are not feeling well and will be tested tomorrow is above 17 at the elementary school alone,” she said.
The Lee County district began the fall semester last Tuesday. Later that day, Beshear required mask-wearing in K-12 schools statewide as the highly contagious delta variant causes waves of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
On the first day of classes, Lee County schools required masks on school buses and “highly recommended” that all students and staff wear masks in schools. The district promptly complied with the Democratic governor’s mask mandate starting the next day.
Beshear pointed to the school closure in a Monday tweet, saying: “Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is how our kids stay in school. Let’s put their education first and do the right thing.”
Without masks, children not old enough to receive the coronavirus vaccine would be defenseless against the virus, the governor said last week. The number of children infected with the virus has risen sharply amid the delta variant outbreak. Children under age 12 are not eligible for the shots.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron last week called the mask order an “unlawful exercise of power” and challenged the governor’s action in the Kentucky Supreme Court. The state’s high court also is reviewing new GOP-backed laws meant to rein in the governor’s executive powers to respond to the public health crisis.
The governor also is urging people to mask up when indoors, away from home.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.