Bars must close and restaurants must reduce indoor capacity to 25% for two weeks starting Tuesday, according to an executive order that Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday.
“This virus is now escalating and spreading so much statewide that statewide action is necessary. That’s the opinion of the Trump administration, and that’s the position of this state government,” he said in Frankfort.
Amid a recent escalation in cases, the governor first mentioned the potential restrictions last week and said they were inevitable if the surge continued.
On Saturday, the state saw its second-highest single day increase with 836 new cases. The next day, Beshear met with Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
As of Monday, 74 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are reportedly in the White House’s coronavirus red or yellow zone. The new restrictions are two of four steps that are “critical to disrupt transmission,” according to federal guidelines.
Facial coverings in public are also advised, along with reducing sizes of social group gatherings, which Beshear has already mandated.
“If we can do this, and we can do this well, it shouldn’t require any other disruptions to the economy,” he said.
The governor also recommended Monday that schools delay the resumption of in-person instruction until the third week of August.
“It gives us a chance to get this thing under better control, (and) to get more people wearing that facial covering,” Beshear said.
“My concern is that if schools start before this, when we’re seeing an escalation in the virus, we’ll see cases in schools. And if we see a lot of early cases in schools, it will be harder to get all of our schools open for in-person classes in some way that works for those families,” he said.
Of the 522 new coronavirus cases Beshear announced Monday, he said 21 were children under age 5.
Since last week, over 100 children under age 5 have reportedly been diagnosed with the coronavirus across the state.
The virus has infected at least 31 children and 38 staff members from 44 child care facilities statewide.
Beshear also announced the state budget did not suffer a deficit this year, due in part to a belated tax deadline and less spending. In May, The Consensus Forecasting Group had projected a shortfall of up to $457 million.
The state is still working to process about 63,000 unemployment claims that are awaiting a written determination, according to state Labor Cabinet Legal Services Executive Director Amy Cubbage.
Last week, Beshear said the state would extend its contract with Ernst & Young for five more weeks to help resolve claims.
During the news conference, a reporter asked why the new mandates are aimed at restaurants and bars when about two-thirds (465 out of 709) of the state’s virus-related deaths are linked to nursing homes.
“What they’re seeing all across the country is a spread that starts in bars, goes from that age group to the 60-year-old age group, and from that age group, (it) gets inside long-term care facilities,” he said.
The state is conducting “surveillance testing” of staff at long-term care facilities to identify those with the virus and ensure they don’t spread it, he said.
“(That) is something that we can’t do in the broader sense. You can’t test somebody that’s about to go into a bar, or coming out. … (But) if we continue to see spread, we may have to look back at (stopping) visitation.”
Asked about the length of the recent mandates, Beshear said in two weeks he hopes to “get restaurant capacity back to 50% … and hope that we can get even bars open in some new, different way.”
He also said “people ought to expect” that the mask requirement will be extended past Aug. 10.
In regard to a question about inconsistency with the state’s stance on limited group sizes and protests, Beshear said “we can control what we can control.”
“I need people to do the right thing in their homes and in their backyards. What I’ve seen from protests is yes, it’s a lot more people other than 10, (but) I have seen significant amounts of people wearing facial coverings and spreading out,” he said.
“But we all have our part to do, regardless of whether we think other people around us are doing it.”
Asked about Kroger ending its partnership with the state for drive-through coronavirus testing, Beshear said he hopes to have a new partner by next week.
Beshear announced 522 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the statewide total to 27,601, of which 1,392 are probable.
He also said at least 588,926 tests have been performed, and the positivity rate is 5.58 percent.
At least 7,466 people have recovered and 609 are currently hospitalized, 131 of whom are in intensive care.
The Barren River Area Development District’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which uses state health department data, showed 3,680 confirmed cases, including 2,244 in Warren, 286 in Butler, 288 in Logan, 262 in Barren, 211 in Allen, 124 in Simpson, 87 in Edmonson, 83 in Monroe, 68 in Hart, and 27 in Metcalfe.
The Barren River District Health Department announced 3,329 total cases in its area, including 2,178 in Warren, 295 in Logan, 282 in Butler, 254 in Barren, 122 in Simpson, 86 in Edmonson, 84 in Hart and 28 in Metcalfe. Of the 3,329 cases, 2,569 have reportedly recovered. The department has reported 80 deaths to date, including 22 in Logan, 21 in Warren, 16 in Butler, 12 in Edmonson, five in Simpson, and two in both Barren and Metcalfe.
There are at least 209 confirmed cases in Allen County, according to an update from the Allen County Health Department, which is not part of the Barren River district.
Some daily totals may shift because of data being reported incorrectly. Additionally, numbers often differ between the state and local sources because of different reporting methods.
– Follow multimedia journalist Emily Zantow on Twitter @EmilyZantowNews or visit bgdailynews.com.