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Kentucky lawmakers vote to elevate statewide masks mandate for public colleges

Kentucky lawmakers voted to elevate a statewide public faculty masks mandate late Thursday after an emotional debate. 

“This invoice will give native management again to the districts — not mandating they do, not mandating they do not,” Republican state Sen. Max Clever, the invoice’s sponsor, mentioned throughout debate. “They make the choice of what they suppose is greatest for his or her constituents of their communities.”

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed parts of the invoice, which provides native faculty boards the authority to make masking choices, however was shortly overridden by the Republican-led legislature. The invoice additionally impacts childcare facilities.

Its passage got here on the finish of a particular session referred to as by the governor to deal with a coronavirus surge that has overwhelmed hospitals within the state. 

“This invoice … is mostly a life-and-death invoice,” Democratic Sen. Reggie Thomas claimed throughout the debate. “If we remove masks mandates, then we’re placing all youngsters and all faculty personnel at extreme danger.”

FILE – On this Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. file photograph, Kentucky Sen. Max Clever listens to a speech throughout the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature particular session in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Picture/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. file photo, Kentucky Sen. Max Wise listens to a speech during the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature special session in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE – On this Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. file photograph, Kentucky Sen. Max Clever listens to a speech throughout the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature particular session in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Picture/Timothy D. Easley, File) (AP Picture/Timothy D. Easley, File)

KENTUCKY GOV SUFFERS LEGAL DEFEAT IN COMBATTING COVID SURGE

Republican Rep. John Blanton mentioned the invoice removes a “one-size-fits-all” strategy.

“We aren’t taking masks away out of your youngsters as we speak,” he mentioned. “Masks are nonetheless a part of the instruments that is supplied for each faculty district throughout this state.”

The invoice additionally goals to maintain youngsters within the classroom as a lot as doable by limiting distant instruction to a selected faculty or classroom – as a substitute of all the district – when there’s an outbreak. 

One other invoice handed Thursday evening bans statewide masks mandates, additionally leaving that energy to native governments and companies. 

Beshear warned Thursday that solely 90 grownup intensive care beds had been accessible statewide. He famous almost two-thirds of Kentucky’s hospitals face important staffing shortages, and greater than 300 Kentucky Nationwide Guard members will likely be headed to 21 hospitals to help well being care staff.

Beshear has referred to as masks “protected” and “efficient” and just lately mentioned he thought one other masks mandate was wanted to confront the present surge.

The governor has issued statewide mandates up to now. 

Whereas Beshear was beforehand allowed to make use of his emergency powers to concern well being orders unilaterally, a state Supreme Courtroom ruling final month gave lawmakers the authority to make legal guidelines limiting his energy. 

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The legislature additionally handed a measure to applicable greater than $69 million in federal funds for pandemic-related efforts. The funds are aimed toward growing COVID-19 testing for well being care suppliers, colleges, well being departments and correctional amenities. The governor signed that measure into regulation, his workplace mentioned.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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