A federal judge halted enforcement of Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s universal school mask mandate Thursday, handing a victory to a group of Catholic school parents who had challenged the governor’s order.
US District Judge William Bertelsman ruled that Beshear could not issue the 30-day mandate after the Republican-controlled legislature voted earlier this year to strip the governor of his emergency powers.
“The Executive Branch cannot simply ignore laws passed by the duly-elected representatives of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Bertelsman wrote in his opinion. “Therein lies tyranny. If the citizens dislike the laws passed, the remedy lies with them, at the polls.”
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Bertelsman had not yet ruled on a request from the parents and Beshear’s administration to limit the scope of his ruling to the Diocese of Covington, located in northern Kentucky. Following the ruling, the paper said, diocese superintendent of schools Kendra McGuire announced the diocese would revert to a masks-optional policy.
The judge’s ruling has no effect on the state school board’s emergency regulation requiring masks in public schools.
Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said in a statement that Bertelsman’s order “could place thousands of Kentucky children at risk and undoubtedly expose them to the most dangerous version of COVID-19 we have ever seen.”
The governor signed an executive order Aug. 10 requiring people to mask up in all K-12 schools, and defended his order Thursday as “the absolute right call.” State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, has asked Kentucky’s Supreme Court to throw out the mandate as part of an ongoing legal battle over whether state lawmakers overstepped their bounds by restricting Beshear’s powers.
Bertelsman has scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction for Tuesday.
Kentucky reported 4,836 coronavirus cases and nine deaths on Thursday. Some 1,708 Kentuckians are hospitalized with the virus. The state’s test positivity rate is 12.75 percent, up from 11.57 percent on the same day, last week.
According to data from the Mayo Clinic, 54.8 percent of Kentuckians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 47 percent are considered fully vaccinated.
With Post wires
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