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Federal judge: Beshear can't require masks in Diocese of Covington schools

Diocese of Covington
Posted at 8:00 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 07:09:47-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — Masks will be optional again in some Northern Kentucky Catholic schools following a federal judge’s ruling that Gov. Andy Beshear cannot require universal masking for schools within the Diocese of Covington.

The superintendent still recommends them.

“Since the case activity is currently high in Kentucky, we do encourage families to continue the use of masks as a preventative measure,” wrote superintendent Kendra McGuire on Thursday night.

Judge William O. Bertelsman issued a temporary restraining order Thursday on behalf of more than 20 families who argued that mandatory mask-wearing for staff, students and visitors — a measure meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — was emotionally and academically harmful to their elementary school-aged children.

“Such intangible and unquantifiable harm is irreparable because it cannot be measured or undone,” Bertelsman wrote in his ruling.

The restraining order temporarily prevents Beshear’s administration from enforcing his universal masking order in the diocese’s 35 schools, which McGuire said will switch to a previous diocese-approved plan.

This plan recommends but does not require mask-wearing or vaccination against COVID-19, encourages desks and cafeteria seats to be spaced at least 3 feet apart and requires students to clean their hands before eating.

Crystal Staley, a spokesperson for the governor, criticized Bertelsman’s ruling in light of the rapidly spreading delta variant.

“The federal court’s ruling could place thousands of Kentucky children at risk and undoubtedly expose them to the most dangerous version of COVID-19 we have ever seen,” she said. “The court ruled without hearing from the governor and with absolutely no consideration of the consequences of exposure and quarantine that we will see — especially at a time when we are nearly out of staffed hospital beds statewide.”

State health officials recorded 3,694 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, before Bertelsman issued his ruling. It was the state’s highest daily number in seven months.