Kids in masks

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is cautioning school districts not to ease their mask mandates too early as COVID-19 cases continue to go decline statewide and the vaccine becomes available to younger children.

During a news conference Thursday, Beshear said the number of cases is trending down this week, but after a period of steep decline, the rate has slowed.

“It's enough to really watch," he said. "I'm not sure I would use the word concern yet, but we're paying very closer attention to it."

More Kentucky counties, including Jefferson, have dropped into the infection rate orange zone. A few into the yellow. As a result, some school districts across the state have relaxed — or are considering relaxing — their mask mandates. Beshear asked schools to be patient.

“I think we've got a good shot at getting to a place with this virus where we won't need masks in schools, hopefully during this school year,” he said. “But we will not get to that place if we rush the decision. Remember, orange is still a bad color.”

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district will be in no hurry to relax the COVID-19 rules as it launches a series of vaccination clinics for newly-eligible 5- to 11-year-old students.

“I can make a recommendation when that time becomes appropriate based on the number of students that are fully-vaccinated and the numbers continuing to decline,” Pollio said.

A check of school districts in the Louisville area revealed most do plan to watch the numbers over time before relaxing their mask mandates. The Hardin County School District is not requiring masks but strongly encourages wearing them.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said getting the vaccine into the arms of youngsters will take some time.

“There will be plenty of vaccine so that every parent and every child will have the chance to be able to be vaccinated," Stack said. "There will not be all the vaccine on day one."

Beshear continued to urge those who are eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot. Beshear and his wife, First Lady Britainy Beshear, even rolled up their sleeves for the cameras Thursday.

“If we get boosted, if we can get a whole lot of kids in this age group vaccinated, we will be better off than we have been probably since vaccines were first offered,” the governor said.

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