Gov. Andy Beshear has recommended that Kentucky's schools delay in-person instruction until Sept. 28.
"Yes, that’s six weeks from now, but it’s also six weeks from what I hope is the peak of this virus, six weeks from the last three weeks where we have been at an all-time high week in and week out, six weeks from a time when we just had a 6% positivity rate," he said today during a COVID-19 press briefing.
On July 27, based on guidance from the White House, Beshear initially asked schools to postpone in-person instruction until the third week of August. Since then, cases of COVID-19 have continued to be at a high in Kentucky.
"To send tens of thousands of our kids back into in-person classes when we don’t have control of this virus, it’s not the right thing to do for these kids, it’s not the right thing to do for their faculty and it’s not the right thing to do as governor," Beshear said.
He said his recommendation comes from his role as both a governor and a father and is predicated on four factors.
First, he said there have been almost 12,000 cases in the past three weeks in the Commonwealth and "the concept that we would try to resume in-person classes when we were at our peak instead of a decline is something that would defy logic."
Second, he said there has been an increase in infections in children across Kentucky and the rest of the country — 100,000 kids tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. in the last two weeks of July alone, according to reports.
"It is a myth that kids do not get this virus. It is a myth that kids cannot spread this virus," Beshear said, noting that that also means they can spread the virus to each other, to faculty and their family. And sending them to school increases their chances of exposure.
Third, schools in states that have already opened up have been able to open for a few days before having to close again when there's an outbreak. Obviously, that disruption is not ideal.
"What we do know is children have a harder time social distancing. And we can’t put a whole bunch of them in a classroom with a teacher right now," he said. "Other states that have tried to open this new school year are now having to close. We don’t want to start and stop. That may be more difficult on our children."
The fourth and final reason is that Kentucky families have been continuing to vacation to hot spot states that fall under the travel advisory.
Beshear said they'll be working with school districts, officials and superintendents on the flexibility they need to make the tough recommendation work. "We have to have a plan that has an opportunity of working," he said.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, a former teacher, also took the podium during the press conference to discuss the state's push for a September in-person start date.
"More than anything, our educators deserve to be able to return to a place of work that is healthy and that is safe," she said. "It is not fair for all of the requirements that have been placed on our schools, for our teachers to be doing the bulk of that work in a situation where they could be putting their health at risk. And so the responsible thing to do is to respect our school employees, our faculty and the families that they go home to every night."