FILE - Students Masks Testing

Students with face masks back at school taking a test.

(The Center Square) – Kentucky’s most populous county is back in the COVID-19 red zone, which means the state’s largest public school district has reinstated a mandatory mask policy, effective Monday.

Jefferson County Public Schools announced the move after the county fell into the red level, the highest of the state’s three levels of COVID spread. The district has decided to follow recommendations by the Kentucky Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suggested prevention steps for areas with a high spread.

“Universal masking is required until Jefferson County is no longer in the red (high) level,” the district stated in a letter on its website. “We will update you on the masking status at the end of each week.”

The mask policy covers all JCPS facilities and buses. The district will also have masks for students, staff and visitors who need one.

In addition, the JCPS COVID Guidance Plan, which the Jefferson County Board of Education approved last week, states that mask waivers may be available for students and adults who qualify.

Schools in the district return to class Aug. 10, and the district’s plan made it clear that JCPS intends to hold class in person five days a week.

“Student access to in-person instruction and social-emotional support is essential,” the guidance plan states.

Rection on social media to the JCPS decision was mixed, though more were critical of bringing back the masks.

It even drew the ire of a candidate running for governor in Kentucky next year.

“Countless times it has been proven that cloth masks do NOT reduce the transmission of a virus. Instead, they interfere with our children’s ability to focus, learn, and properly communicate with each other. 1 in 7 of KY’s students attend JCPS- and parents are justifiably furious,” state Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, tweeted.

During his weekly briefing late last week, Gov. Andy Beshear noted cases across the state were trending up and encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated and consider a booster as well.

“We just want people to have the information to be able to make the best decision that they can,” the governor said. “I want as normal of a school year as we can get. Just remember, if numbers are up, the more boosted we are, the more likely we are to have the most normal school year possible.”

According to KDPH data, nearly 3 million Kentuckians, roughly two-thirds of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 2.6 million, or 57%, are considered fully vaccinated.

However, just 1.2 million residents have received a booster shot. In addition, none of Kentucky’s school-age demographic categories have more than a 48% full vaccination rate.