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Kentucky GOP lawmakers ask Beshear to reconsider mask mandate

Four Republican members of the Kentucky General Assembly sent a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear asking him to revise the order he issued this week requiring masks in all schools and daycare facilities.

State Reps. Myron Dossett, R-Pembrok), Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, and state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, asked the governor to amend the order to include children 4 and older. The governor’s order calls for everyone 2 and older to wear masks in those facilities.

Dossett and Thomas issued a joint release Friday expressing concerns about the order. In particular, Dossett said local school leaders carefully considered implementing mask mandates before the start of the school year in their districts.

“While the governor may not agree with the choices made by local officials, it is his duty to respect their authority,” he said.

Their request, though, almost certainly won’t be heeded. Especially because later Friday, the governor issued a video statement announcing 4,009 new cases were reported for the day. That’s the 10th highest one-day total during the pandemic.

Beshear said hospital beds and their intensive care units were quickly filling up across the state.

“I need you to do your part,” he said standing outside the state Capitol. “Please care about each other more than you care about political arguments. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. The lives of those around you depend on it.”

The lawmakers noted most school districts in Kentucky start in early August, which is typically the warmest period of the year. Temperatures can reach the high 90s across the state.

“Forcing children to mask up during these extreme temperatures is one of our many reasons for concern,” Thomas said.

The two also raised concerns about more than 362,000 school children who use buses to get to and from school. Most school buses do not have air conditioners.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made masks mandatory on all forms of public transportation, including school buses, back in June.

On Thursday, the Kentucky Board of Education voted unanimously to require masks in public schools for up to the next 270 days. That order does not cover private schools or daycares, like the Democratic governor’s order.

Both orders apply to anyone over the age of 2, with various exceptions. Dossett and Thomas said toddlers face delays “in their social communication, mental development, and cognitive skills” if they have to wear masks.

On Friday afternoon, the General Assembly’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee announced it would hold a special meeting Tuesday in Frankfort to hear from those who will be affected by the state board’s decision.

Beshear’s order is also being challenged by Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron. On Wednesday, he asked the state Supreme Court to consider it as part of the suit between Beshear and Republican leaders over laws the legislature passed earlier this year that curb his authority in emergencies.

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