Beshear: School officials will have say on classes after Sept. 28

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear said he will leave it up to local school officials to determine when to go from in-person to virtual classes after Sept. 28.


On Monday, the governor reported 342 new cases were reported to state health officials, a lower number since many labs are closed on the weekend.  “54 of those are kids under 18,” the Governor said, “and you look at the percentage of those, it continues to worry us.”


That increases the total number of cases to 57,282, since the first positive was reported on March 6.


“We’ve also lost five additional Kentuckians,” he said during a Capitol press briefing,” bringing the total lost to 1,065.  Again, based on the number of cases we’ve seen out there, we’re going to have a lot of losses going forward.  It’ll probably be a tough week, like we’ve had a number of tough weeks.”


“Despite everyone, every health official, the President, saying this happens to people of all ages, there are some out there who say this is only taking the lives of older Kentuckians, the first person we’ve lost on today’s list is a 49-year old man from Shelby County.”


The other deaths reported Monday included a 71-year-old woman from Christian County; two men, ages 77 and 80, from Fayette County; and an 82-year-old woman from Pulaski County.


The governor also took issues with those who say someone with other underlying health issues, or nco-morbidity, is not a COVID-19 death.


“It’s crazy,” he said.  “You know what one co-morbidity is? Asthma.  How many of you out there have asthma?  If you get COVID and you die, it’s not because of the asthma.  That is people trying to mislead you.”


State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack announced a new method to keep everyone up to date on reporting cases of the coronavirus among students.  “This afternoon, we filed an emergency regulation addressing K-12 COVID-19 reporting requirements pursuant to existing statutes.”


Under the new regulation, starting no later than Monday, September 28, all parents and guardians are required to report to the child’s school within 24 hours if their child tests positive for COVID-19, and all schools must report via a secure website, Monday through Friday, every day school is in session, data related to the coronavirus.


Stack said the Kentucky Department of Education is sending instructions to schools on how to register with the online portal and report this data, which will appear on the state’s website.


“Publicly reporting this data is a necessary tool to enable students, parents and communities to make informed decisions COVID-19 risk in collaboration with the education and public health communities,” Stack said.


In addition to reporting protocols, Dr. Stack provided updated guidance for schools on a variety of instructional modes.


“Superintendents have requested local control. They have asked us to give them a metric to decide,” Dr. Stack said. “This tool provides the metric and public health guidance attached to it.”


He said the guidance is in effect if the state’s positivity rate is less than 6% and the health care system has enough resources. A color-coded map showing incidence rates will provide districts with corresponding guidance. It will be updated every Thursday evening to guide schools for the following week.


Schools in green and yellow areas essentially follow KDE Healthy at Schools guidance. Schools in an orange zone should take enhanced measures, including more aggressive crowd limits, and should consider a variety of factors to determine what mode of instruction they should use.


If a county reaches red, then both in person instruction should be suspended the following week and only remote learning should occur; schools may still use small groups per KDE guidance for special circumstances.


“Let me be clear, that there is not going to be an overall recommendation coming from me or my office after September 28,” Beshear said. “What’s going to be provided is the information to make a week-by-week decision in our various school districts and counties based on prevalence and what public health experts believe is the right course based on that prevalence.”


Stack added: “Once a county reaches red, it should return to yellow before resuming in-person instruction to allow for disease activity to return to a safer level and to increase the probability of successfully staying open for in person instruction upon reopening.”


In addition, Dr. Stack said the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has published and continues to update its guidance on COVID-19, and that state public health officials will continue to collaborate with officials.


Dr. Houston Barber, superintendent of the Frankfort Independent Schools District, praised the new information.  “This tool that has been developed for K-12 is incredible. It allows for districts all across the state to work together with their local health officials and board teams and come up with a strategy that makes sense for their students, their families and their communities.”


Read about other key updates, actions and information from Gov. Beshear and his administration on their response to the pandemic at kycovid19.ky.gov.


The Governor’s next press briefing will be Tuesday at 4 p.m. and will be streamed on his Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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