A new round of restrictions will take effect in Kentucky this Friday, as the state stares down a third escalation in coronavirus infections.
"We need everybody to buckle down," Gov. Andy Beshear said, outlining a list of new "surgical" steps aimed at curbing the current COVID-19 surge while avoiding an economic shutdown.
Under the orders, all public and private K-12 schools would switch to virtual learning from November 23 through January 4, with elementary schools able to open in December if their counties' incidence rates move out of the critical or red zone.
Starting Friday and running at least three weeks, indoor social gatherings are limited to eight people from no more than two households, indoor venues must cap events at 25 people (church services not included), gyms move to 33 percent capacity and mandatory masking, and restaurants and bars must close down indoor service.
"This may be the last counteroffensive that we have to mount," Beshear encouraged listeners. "Let's make sure that it's effective by everybody, and I mean everybody, doing their part."
To offset losses, the state is launching a $40 million aid fund for restaurants and bars. Non-publicly-traded establishments can apply online for $10,000, or up to $20,000 if they operate multiple locations, starting November 30. Retail will not be asked to alter their current rules, aside from a commitment to re-up enforcement of masking. No businesses will be classified as essential or non-essential, as they were at the outset of the pandemic.
Counties will be asked to help with enforcement, and businesses with that don't follow the regulations could see their licenses affected.
While the governor said the new precautions leave Kentucky's economy "open," Republican leaders see more potential for financial fallout.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles tweeted, "For all the 'this is not a shutdown' talk we just heard from Governor Beshear, make no mistake: this is a shutdown. Our restaurants, students, and workers have been thrown into a long dark winter."
Senate President Robert Stivers released a statement saying his party hasn't been shown "any data that would draw a rational basis to limit Thanksgiving in your home to eight people while you can go to a private venue with twenty-five people."
The Republican leader added the governor must begin consulting with lawmakers "for the sake of the commonwealth."
A breakdown of what's new:
LATEST KENTUCKY NUMBERS:
- 2,753 new cases and 15 deaths (including a 15-year-old girl with "significant" underlying conditions)
- 9.13% positivity rate
- 1,553 hospitalized
- 359 in ICU
- 176 on ventilator
- 292 kids 18 and under
- 25,058 known recovered
NEW RULES (beginning Friday at 5 pm and ending on December 13th):
- Private gatherings will be limited. You may not exceed two households together and no more than eight people. These groups are immediate family members only.
- Limit events at indoor venues to 25 per room.
- Bars and restaurants will be closed to indoor dining. Outdoor service and delivery and pick up are allowed.
- Gyms/fitness centers/pools must be at 33% capacity. Group classes will not be allowed. Masks mandatory.
- All public and private K-12 schools must move to remote learning beginning Nov. 23rd
- In-person classes can resume on Jan 4th at the earliest.
- Elementary schools may return to in-class learning on December 6th unless your county is a red zone.
HELP FOR BUSINESSES:
- $40 million fund will be launched to help bars and restaurants through this phase.
- Administered through the Public Protection Cabinet.
- Applications will be accepted online Nov 30th through Dec 18th.
- The web site is being set up.
- Available to businesses who currently operate as a bar or restaurant.
- Eligible for $10,000, maximum $20,000 if there is more than one location.
- Businesses with 50% of sales earned through drive-through not eligible.
- Eligible businesses cannot not be owned by a publicly-traded company.
- All businesses must certify that they are in compliance and will remain in compliance to regulations.
- Counties will be asked to help under Chapter 39A.
- Violations could result in changes to licenses.
- Businesses won’t be able to apply for financial help if they do not follow regulations.
- Enforcement for private gatherings “will be difficult,” Beshear says, asking everyone to “do the right thing.”
LIVE PERFORMANCES AT INDOOR VENUES:
- Indoor entertainment venues must follow state regulations
- Venues that do not follow regulations can “expect to see people from the labor cabinet or from local counties.”
- College sports may continue because of the level of testing available to their teams/staff.
- 15% allowed in major venues, such as Rupp Arena.