FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Governor Andy Beshear has announced new COVID-19 restrictions as the state is seeing increasing case numbers and deaths from the virus.
"When addressing COVID-19, action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly," said Gov. Beshear. "It's time to do what it takes to finish this fight."
During his Wednesday afternoon news conference, the governor said three new steps will be implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"These steps range from 3 to 6 weeks in duration and are designed to have the maximum impact with as little disruption ... as possible," said Gov. Beshear.
1) Limiting Private Gatherings:
The governor says the virus is spreading at family gatherings and neighborhood events. Starting Friday, Nov. 20 at 5:00 p.m. to Sunday, Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m., private/indoor social gatherings will be limited to your current household plus one other household, not to exceed a total of eight people.
"We see so much spread when people get together, otherwise, in larger groups and get comfortable [and] end up taking their masks off," said Gov. Beshear.
2) Limiting Attendance at Venue Spaces:
Gov. Beshear says this includes weddings and funerals where he says there is "significant virus spread." Starting Friday, Nov. 20 at 5:00 p.m. to Sunday, Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m., events will be limited to no more than 25 people per room. The restrictions do not apply to in-person services at places of worship. However, the governor said the state will provide recommendations on attending those services on Thursday.
3) Closing Indoor Dining at Restaurants and Bars:
Starting Friday, Nov. 20 at 5:00 p.m. to Sunday, Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m., bars and restaurants will be closed for indoor service.
"Carryout, delivery, and outdoor seated service may continue, but only if the mask mandate and the seating rules are enforced," said Gov. Beshear. "Packed patios will result in further changes on what these venues can and cannot do."
A $40 million fund has been launched to assist restaurants and bars that will be impacted by the new restrictions. Entries that qualify will receive $10,000 to use for various costs.
La Tasha Buckner, Gov. Beshear's Chief of Staff, says it will be administrated by the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, which is finalizing the program details. Applications will be accepted online from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18, and more information will be provided at a later time.
Buckner says the $10,000 assistance will be available to businesses that are currently operating as bars and restaurants. A business entity can receive up to $20,000 if they own more than one location. Businesses that will not be eligible include those where more than 50% of their sales are made through drive-thrus. Businesses owned by a publicly-traded company will also not be eligible. All businesses must certify that they are going to be in compliance with the governor's orders and remain in compliance with the executive orders and public health orders.
"We know this doesn't cover the entire impact [of] cost to your business by COVID-19, but we're hoping that it will help some in the meantime," said Buckner.
Gyms, Fitness Centers, and Pools:
Gyms will now be at 33% occupancy and face masks will be required. Group classes are prohibited. The 33% occupancy also applies to pools, bowling alleys, and similar businesses.
KHSAA announced Wednesday it will postpone the 2020-21 winter sports season until Jan. 4. The governor says the same decision will be applied for all indoor recreational facilities, so indoor practices will not be allowed for sports teams. Individual lessons are allowed but face masks will be required.
Office Space Businesses:
Professional services and office space businesses are recommended to have all able employees to work from home. When possible, the governor says businesses should be closed to the public. If they are open, they should maintain 33% of their employees, at most, in their facility at one time.
"We're asking everybody in these targeted areas to do this at the same time so that we get our maximum impact," said Gov. Beshear. "If we're going to take a swing at this virus, we want to make sure we swing hard enough to truly impact its direction and to stop exponential growth."
Governor Beshear says starting Monday, Nov. 23, all public and private schools (K-12) will cease in-person instruction beginning on Nov. 23. Middle schools and high schools will remain in remote instruction until Jan. 4, 2021. Elementary schools may reopen on Dec. 7 if their county is not in the "red zone" and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.
"This virus, at its level right now, is and will overwhelm each and every one of our schools if we do not take action," said Gov. Beshear.
The governor says the new restrictions are not part of a shutdown and that "our economy is open." He says there will be no businesses that will be categorized as essential or non-essential, which will determine if they will be open or not.
This is not, and will not be, a shutdown. Our economy is open. But today we are announcing significant, but surgical and targeted steps designed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our people. https://t.co/WKgIXkLSfB pic.twitter.com/ADzRxbxGxv— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) November 18, 2020
This comes as Gov. Beshear says Wednesday marks the fourth highest day of new daily COVID-19 cases, noting the top five highest daily case numbers have been in the past week.
Gov. Beshear reported 2,753 new cases Wednesday. Of the new cases, 292 include those under the age 18.
There have been 144,753 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state's current positivity rate is 9.13%.
1,553 Kentuckians are currently in the hospital with the virus, 359 are in the ICU, and 176 are on a ventilator.
15 more people have died from the virus, including a 15-year-old girl from Ballard County. The governor notes the girl did have pre-existing conditions but said COVID-19 was a contributing factor in her death.
"None of these decisions are easy ... none of them are going to be popular," said Gov. Beshear. "But now is the time we make the decision on whether we are going to let our fellow Kentuckians become sick, and more of them die, or we are going to take a stand against the third wave of this virus."