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Diocese of Covington Schools to Require Masks Starting Tuesday

Schools within the Diocese of Covington will have required masking starting Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Kendra McGuire wrote in a letter to parents on Friday.

The decision follows a legal victory for some families at St. Joseph School in Cold Spring who went to court to protest Governor Andy Beshear's mask mandate for all schools in the state.

The federal court sided with the families, seemingly exempting all Diocese of Covington schools from following the executive order, which was ultimately removed from public schools as well following a separate state Supreme Court decision.

However, public schools in the state are all required to have universal masking due to an order from the Kentucky board of education.

Masking indoors has been part of the mitigation effort of the spread of COVID-19 since last summer. But statewide restrictions eased, including mask requirements, over the summer, when the pandemic was seemingly fading.

Now, Kentucky is seeing a surge in positive cases, and on Thursday recorded its second most single-day positive cases since the pandemic began.

There are an increasing number of younger people contracting the virus as well when compared to last year. Dozens of schools districts across the state have had to close or return to virtual learning due to positive cases and quarantines.

The delta variant of COVID-19 is widely blamed for the spike in cases and severe illnesses, almost entirely among unvaccinated people.

There are three widely available and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines being used in Kentucky at no charge right now.

Superintendent McGuire noted the rise in cases in her letter informing parents about the mask mandate.

"During this time we have seen case activity in some schools and have had to quarantine students and staff deemed close contacts," McGuire wrote. "This is to be expected as case activity in our area is high. As stated in our protocols, additional precautions such as masks may be put into place based on case activity. Of our 37 schools, three elementary schools and two middle schools have added masks as a precaution due to increasing case activity in their school. We are appreciative of our families for adjusting to these changes and exhibiting patience as we navigate this school year with a new strain of the virus.

"As the holiday weekend approaches, we have made the decision to move all schools to required masking effective Tuesday, September 7th. This is based on our experiences last year with COVID- 19 cases and the rising case activity in our region. During the 2020-2021 school year, we saw an increase in positive student cases following long weekends or holidays where people often gather.

"We also know that the higher the community rates, the more impacts we will see in our schools. At this time, by returning to a mask requirement we will hopefully mitigate further spread of the virus and help keep quarantines to a minimum. This is an extra precaution that we feel is necessary in order to maintain in-person instruction for the greatest number of students. Please note that case data and other information is reviewed daily and evaluated weekly."

"As I’m sure you are aware, there are a wide range of thoughts and opinions on the best response to this pandemic. I have seen a lot of un-Christian words and actions on all sides of this debate," McGuire wrote. "But we cannot allow these differences to divide us. As Catholic school communities, it is important for us to come together and treat one another as Christ taught us. While it seems that we will not be able to come to agreement on one COVID-19 response plan we can unite in prayer through our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can help us learn to live in peace with one another despite our differences."

There are 33 schools within the Diocese of Covington (24 elementary and 9 high schools) serving more than 8,600 students.

-Staff report