Heralding it as a return to “normalcy” for many, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that Kentuckians who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings.
The announcement comes on the heels of a recommendation issued earlier Thursday by the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who says it’s safe for vaccinated people to remove their masks and not practice social distancing in most indoor public spaces. Everyone will still need to mask in crowded groups of others, like when using public transportation, in hospitals and in congregate settings such as nursing homes and correctional facilities.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
Beshear, in a brief video update, called the change “outstanding,” and said he would alter Kentucky’s statewide mask mandate to reflect the easing of that restriction. Nearly 1.9 million Kentuckians have received at least their initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — 53% of the population age 18 and older, and 43% of the total state population.
“The CDC says it is safe to take that mask off,” and Kentucky will “immediately follow that guidance,” Beshear said. “It means that we are so close to normalcy, and we’re going to be changing Kentucky’s mask mandate to be the same with those CDC guidelines.”
Kentuckians, under a statewide mandate by way of executive order, have been required to wear a mask in public settings for 10 months, since July of 2020. People who aren’t vaccinated are still required to wear a mask in all public settings.
Beshear has already begun easing some coronavirus restrictions as more people get the vaccine. Last month, Beshear eased masking requirements for the vaccinated at outdoor events with fewer than 1,000 people. Beginning on May 28, businesses and event spaces serving fewer than 1,000 can expand from 60% to 75% capacity, bars and restaurants will no longer need to adhere to a curfew, and bar seating will be allowed.
The governor also announced 674 new cases of COVID-19 across Kentucky on Thursday and seven additional deaths — three of which were previously uncounted and were discovered through a statewide audit of all coronavirus deaths. The state has confirmed a total of 451,213 cases and 6,637 deaths. The positivity rate is 3.08%