Gov. Andy Beshear points to the chart showing the rising COVID-19 numbers in Kentucky. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

Gov. Andy Beshear points to the chart showing the rising COVID-19 numbers in Kentucky. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (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 school districts to maintain mask requirements in schools.

The statewide vaccination rate among youngsters ages 12 to 17 is the lowest of any age group.

That combination had the Democratic governor using his bully pulpit to plead with local school boards and superintendents to continue requiring mask wearing in schools.

Last week, the Republican-dominated legislature scrapped a statewide mask mandate for public schools. Beshear vetoed the mask-related language, but GOP lawmakers overrode him before ending a three-day special session.

“There is one right answer, where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school," the governor said at a 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.

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