LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Andy Beshear rescinded an executive order requiring universal masking in schools, preschools and child care facilities Monday after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled newly passed laws limiting his emergency powers should be enforced.
Beshear’s order rescinding his Aug. 10 directive was filed and took effect Monday. Emergency regulations requiring masks inside public schools and child care facilities from the Kentucky Board of Education and Kentucky Department for Public Health remain in effect.
The decision by Beshear to pull his executive order requiring universal masking in public and private schools and child care facilities follows the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling Saturday that laws limiting his emergency powers should take effect as his office challenges their constitutionality in an ongoing lawsuit.
"As we move forward, this has got to be a process where I can't make a lot of those calls anymore," Beshear said in a news conference Monday.
The state Supreme Court ordered the Franklin Circuit Court in a ruling Saturday to dissolve its injunction blocking laws passed this year by the Republican-controlled legislature to curb the governor’s executive powers during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under one of the new laws, the governor’s executive orders during emergencies can only last 30 days unless extended by lawmakers.
Beshear said he had been in "constructive" talks with legislative leaders about potential responses to the COVID-19 pandemic under the new laws.
"It all depends on if we can get to a place where it's productive," Beshear said when asked about the possibility to calling lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session. "Certainly I think that the state of emergency needs to continue for a number of noncontroversial reasons."
The governor offered recommendations Monday for counties currently in the state's "red zone" for COVID-19 transmission, of which 119 of 120 counties qualify. In the Louisville area, Baptist Health has 433 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at its nine hospitals. Norton Healthcare has 192, and 15 of those are pediatric patients.
Beshear declined to offer specifics of his talks with lawmakers, only saying they had exchanged information on the pandemic and that he had made no requests of legislative leaders.
Beshear said during Monday's news conference that he believed Kentucky is "reaching the point where a statewide mask mandate is absolutely necessary."
"We've got to have hospital beds," he said. "... I certainly hope that they will, again, make the very best and sometimes courageous decisions that are necessary. I'm going to try to provide the data and the information to help people make those decisions."
Another law passed this year requires businesses and schools to comply with the least restrictive COVID-19 guidance from either the state's executive branch or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends universal masking inside schools.
The Kentucky Department of Education said Monday that the emergency regulation approved by the state board of education requiring universal masking inside public schools for at least 270 days remains in effect regardless of recent legal and executive action.
Beshear's Aug. 10 executive order on universal masking inside schools also faced a roadblock in federal court.
U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman issued a temporary restraining order Thursday against the governor’s executive order mandating universal masking in schools and child care settings as part of a lawsuit filed by a group of Catholic school parents in northern Kentucky.
A hearing in the federal case is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Covington. Beshear's office said Thursday it had agreed with plaintiffs to apply Bertelsman's ruling only to Diocese of Covington schools.
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