During last week’s special legislative session, Kentucky lawmakers passed bills that scrapped a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023.
Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the mask-related language but Republican lawmakers overrode him before ending their three-day session.
The bills put the decision as to whether students and staff should be masked in the hands of local school boards, and with that, Christian County Public Schools released a statement on Monday afternoon that said masks will remain in place for the time being.
“On August 5th, the Christian County Board of Education approved a policy requiring anyone within a Christian County Public Schools facility to wear a face covering,” the statement read. “In an effort to limit quarantine absenteeism as required by the Kentucky Department of Public Health, this policy will remain in effect for the time being. It will be revisited and reassessed before we return to school from Fall Break on October 11th.”
On the latest CCPS COVID reporting data dashboard, which was released on Thursday, there was 22 active cases of COVID-19 among faculty and staff, 179 active student cases and 370 students quarantined because of close contact. Those were the numbers recorded while students and staff were required to wear masks.
Beshear said last week that wearing masks was the “best way” to keep children learning in classrooms.
“There is only one decision, one right answer where you don’t endanger children and your entire community,” he said. “This thing is burning through Kentucky like nothing that we have ever seen.”
The CCPS mask rule that was voted on before the current school year began requires students, staff and visitors to wear masks when indoors except when eating, drinking, or when able to maintain adequate social distance.
When the decision was made last month, superintendent Chris Bentzel said he and his staff had been in contact with the local health department, pediatricians and doctors at Jennie Stuart in order to get guidance on how to move forward with the safety of students in mind.
“I am not a medical professional,” Bentzel said prior to the school board vote to have students wear masks. “I lean on our medical professionals in our community and they have all told me that we need to mask up our students in the building. Every single one of them that we have talked to has said that.”
Unvaccinated students and staff who are masked in the building and socially distanced will not have to quarantine if they are around someone who tests positive for COVID-19, so wearing masks while in school will be a vital tool to keep students in class for in-person learning.
The City of Hopkinsville celebrated another successful energy filled Pow Wow this past weekend.
In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present day to Oklahoma. In the midst of migrating, Native Americans named their journey the “Trail of Tears.”
This journey had devastating effects. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees migrating died.
During their journey to freedom, tribes occupied campgrounds in Hopkinsville.
And on the first weekend after Labor Day, for 34 years and counting, the descendants of several tribes honor their ancestors at the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park with the annual Trail of Tear Pow Wow.
The Pow Wow is a gathering for the community with emphasis on Native American people celebrating their rich heritage.
Some of the tribes present over the weekend were Choctaw, Muscogee, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and Cherokee.
Vendors from all over came with merchandise for sale such as beautiful feathers, jewels, hand crafted knives, dream catchers and much more.
People in the community were seen enjoying some of the most delicious traditional Native Indian dishes: fry bread and Choctaw Indian tacos.
Children danced with family and friends throughout the gathering. As well as meeting other children who came to watch the show.
From the drums, the bells attached to their clothes amongst the singing, there was a beautiful synergy among the tribes present honoring of their ancestors.
One of the best events of the night were the contest held amongst the tribes best native pride dancers. In Native American cultures, dance is a way of expression, a language in itself. It’s a source of freedom, meditation, and unity.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville is one of only a few documented campsites along the Trail of Tears.
The Trail of Tears covers nine states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The location in Hopkinsville where Native Americans camped in 1838, is considered sacred grounds.
The city of Hopkinsville will continue to remember and honor those who perished fighting to keep their loved ones together and protected.
The Trail of Tears annual Pow Wow in Hopkinsville reminds us how important family is, and how staying as a united front has its own power.
The man accused of a Walmart carjacking and shooting of Hopkinsville Police Department officer Jeremy Davidson in February 2019, had his jury trial that was set to begin Monday morning rescheduled for later this week in Judge John Atkins’ court.
Keith Kuzyk, 30, Clarksville, appeared in court Monday for what was scheduled to be the beginning of his trial, however, due to the defense receiving last minute evidence, his trial was rescheduled to begin Thursday morning.
Atkins told the New Era that Kuzyk’s defense attorney Rick Sanborn explained to the court that Sanborn made a motion to move the trial due to the late arrival of evidence provided by the commonwealth.
“The defense had made a motion for postponement due to the belated arrival of a voluminous amount of medical information,” Atkins said.
Atkins continued to share that the defense explained that the delay was not the fault of the commonwealth, but instead, was an untimely mistake.
“The defense conceded that the commonwealth was not to blame for the delay,” Atkins said.
“The commonwealth did not receive the information until late Thursday and provided it immediately to the defense on Friday, but in a format that the defense was not able to manipulate and review the documents until (Monday).”
Atkins ultimately chose to grant the motion to postpone the trial “out of an abundance of caution and in a sense of fairness.”
Atkins rescheduled the trial for Thursday and Friday, beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Atkins added that while the jury panel was present to begin the trial, the jury was informed of the court’s decision and was excused until Thursday, on which day the jury for the trial will be selected.
According to New Era archives, Kuzyk was sentenced to 18 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release by United States Senior District Court Judge Thomas B. Russell on Dec. 18, 2020 for federal charges related to his case locally.
Kuzyk pleaded guilty to carjacking, use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, archives added. Kuzyk’s charge of shooting an officer is being adjudicated in state court.
As Kuzyk’s charges are federal, there is no parole for his crime.
Locally, Kuzyk is currently charged with first-degree assault of a police officer, attempted murder, first-degree fleeing or evading police (motor vehicle), receiving stolen property under $10,000, theft by unlawful taking of an auto over $10,000 and first-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer.
According to archives, Ofc. Davidson was shot in the head and arm around 1:30 a.m. Feb. 18, 2019, while in pursuit of a robbery suspect. A woman reported to police that she was robbed by a masked man at Walmart on Clinic Drive. The suspect also stole her car.
A warrant was later issued for Kuzyk, along with three other suspects. According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Kentucky press release, Kuzyk was the perpetrator of the robbery and of shooting Davidson.
Archives continue to state that on Feb. 18, 2019, the group of four, Kuzyk, Autumn Neblett, September Neblett and Anthony Johnson, took part in robbing a woman of her car, later leading to a car chase where Kuzyk shot officer Davidson twice.
The four of them arrived at Walmart on Clinic Drive and saw a white Chevrolet Tahoe occupied by Ethan Sisk and three passengers.
Kuzyk approached the vehicle and ordered Sisk, who was the driver, to get out of the vehicle at gunpoint. Sisk refused to get out before Kuzyk struck him in the face with his gun. Sisk then got out of the vehicle, and Kuzyk ordered the other three passengers to get out as well.
During that time, Kuzyk allegedly fired a handgun into the air and got into the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Johnson, who was also armed, entered the passenger’s seat of the vehicle, and the two drove away in the stolen Tahoe.
Autumn and September drove away from the Walmart in a Dodge 4X4 that the four of them arrived in.
Roughly an hour later, the four met again. While there, Kuzyk got in the Dodge with Autumn as September got in the stolen Tahoe with Johnson.
At that time, Davidson spotted the Dodge and began attempting to make a traffic stop, but the Dodge fled and a pursuit began.
During the pursuit, a Christian County Sheriff’s deputy deployed spike strips on North Drive. Kuzyk saw the spike strips, attempted to swerve and almost hit the deputy.
As the pursuit continued, Kuzyk fired a rifle multiple times at Davidson, striking him twice. One shot hit him in the head while the other struck his arm.
Kuzyk continued to flee before abandoning the vehicle at a home on Sanderson Drive. However, Kuzyk and Autumn took the guns with them.
During that pursuit, Ofc. Jamal Howard spotted the stolen Tahoe and attempted to make a traffic stop before it fled, beginning another pursuit. The Tahoe eventually fled into Tennessee where officers lost sight of it.
Later that morning, Autumn was found hiding in a dugout on the property of University Heights Academy, holding the rifle that was used to shoot Davidson.
At around 8:30 a.m. Monday, another vehicle was reported stolen from the Waffle House on Fort Campbell Boulevard in Hopkinsville.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office assisted Hopkinsville Police Department and the Christian County Sheriff’s Office to locate and apprehend Kuzyk.
At approximately 8:54 a.m., Christian County and Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies spotted Kuzyk driving a vehicle near Zinc Plant Road in Clarksville. Deputies attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but he failed to stop and led deputies on another pursuit through several roads
When the vehicle turned on Highway 48/13 to head back into town, Sgt. James Derico with the MCSO deployed spike strips to slow the vehicle, and a Christian County sheriff’s deputy brought the vehicle to a stop.
Davidson was later discharged and recovered from his injuries.
FRANKFORT (AP) — School-age children are contracting COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other age group in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday while exhorting newly empowered school districts to maintain mask requirements in schools.
The statewide vaccination rate among youngsters ages 12 to 17 is the lowest of any group, with 45% having received at least one dose. That combination had the governor using his bully pulpit to plead with local school boards and superintendents to continue mandating mask-wearing in schools.
Last week, the Republican-dominated legislature scrapped a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023. The Democratic governor vetoed the mask-related language, but GOP lawmakers quickly overrode him before ending a three-day special session.
The legislature shifted masking decisions to local school boards.
“There is one right answer — where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school," Beshear said at a Monday news conference. "And then there is one wrong decision, where you endanger children and you allow COVID to spread throughout your community when your hospital is already overburdened.”
A school custodian in eastern Kentucky died from COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming the second staff member at Lee County Elementary to die from the virus since the school year began.
Custodian Bill Bailey died two weeks after an instructional aide at the same school, Heather Antle, also died from the coronavirus, Lee County schools Superintendent Sarah Wasson said.
“He fought hard against COVID but unfortunately it was too much,” Bailey’s son, Austin, said in a social media post. “I can’t put into words how much this hurts.”
The Lee County school board is scheduled to discuss mask policy and other virus-mitigation strategies this week, Wasson said. She said the districtwide mask mandate in effect since Aug. 11 would remain in place as “we work to make the best decisions for the safety of all students, staff and our community.”
Beshear urged school boards statewide to “do the right thing" and keep mask mandates in place. As of Sunday, 25% of the state’s 171 school districts had decided in favor of a school mask mandate, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
“We’re supposed to be responsible for the safety of our children," the governor said. "Let’s step up and have the courage to be responsible for them.”
Kentucky currently ranks third nationally for the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases per capita, Beshear said Monday. The Bluegrass State reported 10,007 coronavirus cases in the past three days, and more than 2,700 of those cases were in school-aged children. At least 68 virus-related deaths were reported statewide during those three days. Kentucky has reported more than 8,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.
“Right now, COVID is as bad in Kentucky as it has ever been in this pandemic,” Beshear said. “And right now, sadly, we are one of the hottest states in the country.”
Nearly 70% of the state’s hospitals -- 66 of 96 -- are reporting critical staffing shortages, the highest number yet during the pandemic, the governor said.
“Our hospitals are at the brink of collapse in many communities,” said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner.
Beshear and Stack continued to plead with the unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 shots. Beshear pointed to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found people who were not fully vaccinated this spring and summer were more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated.
The governor called on Kentuckians to have tough conversations with their families and friends to urge the unvaccinated to get the shots.
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.