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Beshear Announces New Mandatory Restrictions To Combat COVID-19

Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday announced new restrictions to scale back COVID-19 spread in Kentucky. Beshear said the new restrictions go into effect at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Nov. 20 and last until noon Dec. 13.

These restrictions, in brief, include:

  • Limiting private indoor gatherings to two households of immediate family members; gatherings should not exceed eight people
  • Limiting event attendance at venue spaces to 25 people per room; applies to events such as weddings and funerals, but not in-person worship services
  • Bars and restaurants must cease indoor service; curbside, takeout, delivery and outdoor service with social distancing and mask-wearing may continue
  • Businesses such as gyms, pools and bowling alleys must scale back to 33% occupancy; group classes at gyms and fitness centers are prohibited
  • Professional services and office-based businesses should have all employees able to work from home
  • Businesses should close to the public, if possible
  • Businesses that are open should maintain 33% employees at most in their facility at one-time
  • All public and private K-12 schools must switch to remote instruction beginning Nov. 23 until Jan. 4; Elementary schools not in red-zones and that follow Health at School guidance may reopen Dec. 7.
  • All fall sports and their practices are postponed until past Dec. 13.

Relief Funds For Bars And Restaurants

Beshear said $40 million in COVID-19 relief funds will be given to select restaurants and bars impacted by the restrictions. He said qualifying businesses will receive $10,000 in assistance. Chief of Staff Latasha Buckner said Team Kentucky Food and Beverage Relief Fund applications will be accepted online from Nov. 30 through Dec. 18.

“Businesses with at least 50% of their sales via drive-throughs will not be eligible for the award. And you may not be owned by a publicly-traded company,” she said. “We really want to make sure that we target the mom-and-pops and individual business owners out there who may be suffering from the largest impact.”

Buckner said all businesses must certify that they will comply with the governor’s orders. She said the maximum award for businesses with more than one location is $20,000. Under the new mandate, bars and restaurants will still be able to offer outdoor seating and curbside service.

Restrictions

Beshear said COVID-19 is currently the third leading cause of death in America, trailing cancer. He said the nation is currently experiencing the third wave of the virus. He said the state responded with Healthy At Home to mitigate the first wave and responded to the second with the mask mandate and the shutdown of bars and restaurants to in-person service.

“Action is unpopular but inaction is deadly,” Beshear said.

Beshear referenced recent announcements from Moderna and Pfizer and said if the nation can get to the point when vaccines are approved, manufactured and administered, “we can be past this chapter in our history.” But, he said the state needs to “take action” to save lives in the meantime.

“This is not and there will not be a shutdown. Our economy is open and there will be no categorizing businesses as essential or non-essential and asking them to close,” he said.

Beshear said the first step is limiting private, indoor gatherings to two households of people. He said this applies only to immediate family and not extended family members. The gatherings should not exceed eight people.

“Your household is who you live with on a regular basis. You can have one other household over…”

Beshear said more spread occurs when people get together in larger groups and get comfortable and take off their masks.

Beshear said attendance needs to be limited at 25 people per room at venue spaces.

“Think weddings and funerals,” he said. “Where we continue to see significant virus spread...These recommendations do not apply to in-person services at places of worship, which I will be making recommendations on directly to them tomorrow.”

Beshear said bars and restaurants will be closed for indoor service but can still operate through curbside, take-out and delivery. He said outdoor service can continue only if the mask mandate and seating rules are enforced.

“Packed patios will result in further changes on what these venues can and cannot do,” he said.

Beshear said the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Johns Hopkins and Stanford University have all released recent studies showing restaurants and bars are “clearly spreading, if not the greatest spread, of COVID-19.”

Beshear said gyms, pools, bowling alleys and other similar entities must scale back to 33% occupancy with mask-wearing required. Group classes are prohibited.

He said KHSAA Wednesday decided to postpone all fall sports and their practices until after Dec. 13. He said that same decision applies to all indoor recreation facilities.

“Think about cheerleading gyms -- closed to group activities. Individual lessons are allowed but masking is required,” Beshear said. “We’ve seen cases come out of numerous cheerleading gyms and martial arts studios.”

Beshear also said professional services and office-based businesses should have all employees that are able to work from home. He said when possible, businesses should close to the public, and businesses that are open should maintain 33% employees at most in their facility at one time.

All public and private K-12 schools must cease in-person instruction and switch to remote instruction beginning Nov. 23. Beshear said elementary schools not in COVID-19 critical “red-zones” and following Healthy At School guidance may reopen Dec. 7. He said middle and high schools will remain in remote instruction until at least Jan. 2, 2021.

“It is our hope and we will make every effort to make sure that in January we have the opportunity to return to in-person instruction.”

Beshear said all public universities have decided to teach 100% virtually by Monday, Nov. 23 for the rest of the year. He said his office has asked private universities and colleges to do the same and “most of them will certainly be there by Thanksgiving.”

Beshear said he is not asking hospitals to curtail elective procedures but “they are doing it on their own when necessary.” He said his office is not restricting retail any further, but that is based on a commitment to “re-up” and enforce the mask mandate. He said for activities not listed, people should follow the current guidance listed on the Healthy At Work website.

Enforcement

Beshear said the restrictions are necessary and need everyone’s help moving forward. He said the new rules are “a lot easier to enforce” than others. He said his office is also going to be asking for assistance from counties. He said under KRS 39A, county officials can enforce many parts of the executive order. He said most of the groups impacted by the new rules are licensed and there will be issues with those licenses if they do not follow those rules. He said bars and restaurants will also be ineligible for the $40 million relief fund if they do not comply.

“I think people were waiting for something that is more than just a recommendation. Now they have it,” he said.

Wednesday’s COVID-19 Report

Beshear said Wednesday was the fourth highest rate of new cases in a single day. He confirmed 2,753 new cases and said the top five highest reports of single-day cases have all occurred in the past week. He said 292 children under 18 years old tested positive Wednesday. The state has 144,753 total cases. The positivity rate is 9.13%.

Beshear also reported 15 new deaths due to COVID-19. He said 1,553 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with 359 in the ICU and 176 on a ventilator.

Beshear said long-term care facilities are being overwhelmed, with 105 new residents and 120 new staff members testing positive for coronavirus. He said 13 new deaths are attributable to these facilities.

According to a Calloway County Health Department press release, one new county resident has died from coronavirus, bringing the total deaths to 17. The health department also confirmed 26 new cases of coronavirus. The total number of cases is 1,418 with 1,162 cases recovered, 229 isolated at home and 10 hospitalized.

This story has been updated.

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