Sep 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kentucky lawmakers overturn school mask mandate as COVID cases soar

An aerial view of a coronavirus testing site in Covington, Kentucky, on Sept. 8.

An aerial view of a coronavirus testing site in Covington, Kentucky, on Sept. 8. Photo: Jeffrey Dean/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature voted on late Thursday night to revoke a statewide mask mandate in public schools meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

Why it matters: The vote came on the final day of an emergency special legislative session called by Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in response to surging cases in the state.

  • The Kentucky Supreme Court last month allowed state Republicans to significantly limit Beshear's executive authority to impose emergency health measures during the pandemic, including the indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools, preschools and child care facilities.

Beshear vetoed portions of the bill nullifying the school mask mandate on Thursday night, though Republican lawmakers overrode his vetoes and ended the special session.

  • School mask mandates will instead be determined by school districts.
  • Lawmakers also imposed bans on any future vaccine mandates for hospital workers and statewide mask mandates, giving local governments and businesses the power to implement mask rules.

The big picture: Kentucky reported 5,252 new coronavirus cases — including 1,602 new cases among people 18 years and younger — and 36 new deaths from the virus on Thursday, according to state data.

  • Only around 47% of the state's population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Go deeper: GOP governors, RNC threaten legal action over Biden's vaccine mandate

Go deeper