Governor Andy Beshear today announced two additional steps to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in Kentucky.
Beshear said bars need to close for two weeks effective Tuesday. He said restaurants also need to limit capacity to 25%. Outdoor capacity can remain as long as social distancing is maintained.
These steps are a part of four steps the White House has recommended to prevent the spread of the virus. Beshear said these steps can prevent Kentucky from becoming like Florida, Texas or Arizona.
“I don’t want to be a state where casket-makers are running out of their caskets that they’re loading on eighteen-wheelers to come to us,” Beshear said. “That’s happening right now in other states. I don’t want to be a state that has to order one of these freezer trucks because our morgues run out of space.”
The two other steps recommended by the white house include a 30-day statewide mask mandate, which Beshear put into effect July 10, and a limit on social, non-commercial gathers to 10 people or fewer, which was reinstated in Kentucky on July 20.
Beshear also recommended schools postpone in-person instruction until the third week in August. He said waiting until then gives the state a better chance to get coronavirus “under better control.”
“My concern is that if schools start before this when we are seeing an escalation of 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.
Beshear said he hopes to get restaurants back up to 50% capacity in two weeks from Tuesday. He said officials will be looking at the positivity rate, overall cases and hospitalization/ICU data in the decision making process. He also said people should anticipate the state re-upping the statewide mask mandate.
Beshear announced 522 new cases of coronavirus today, bringing the state total to 27,601 cases. He said the positivity rate has increased to 5.58%. He said 588,926 total tests have been administered to date. He reported nine new deaths.
Beshear said 609 Kentuckians are currently in the hospital due to coronavirus and 131 are in the ICU. At least 7,466 patients have recovered.
He said in long-term care facilities 30 additional residents and 35 staff members tested positive since Friday’s report. He said seven deaths are attributable to these facilities. Three new facilities reported at least one positive.
Beshear said on Sunday he discussed virus trends.
“What they were seeing is people in their twenties and thirties started the spread and then guess what it’s their parents that are in or around their sixties, and then it was grandparents that got it from there,” he said.
Beshear also said six new childcare facilities have been affected by coronavirus and six staff members and five children have tested positive.
Beshear also provided some updates on this year’s budget. He said the state did not end the year with a deficit and instead reported a final general fund surplus of $177.5 million. He said the state was estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars short.
“A couple things happened. The delayed income tax collections in July...were a lot stronger than were expected,” he said.
Beshear said $162.5 million of the surplus will go into the rainy day fund, or the Budget Reserve Trust Fund. This deposit brings the fund to $465.7 million.
“It’s the largest deposit at the end of a fiscal year that we have had, I believe, even in decades.”
Beshear said schools, universities and the legislative and judicial branches will not have to take a cut based on the last fiscal year. He said the road fund ended with a shortfall of $60.3 million. He said state officials were able to take action early to cut spending within state cabinets so there will be no cuts to the state construction program.
Beshear said it is a better outcome than he could have anticipated.