Gov. Andy Beshear on Nov. 18 announced several new steps the state is taking to stem the rampant spread of the COVID-19 virus across the commonwealth, including the closure of schools and in-person service for bars and restaurants.
The move comes as officials from the local, state and federal levels have sounded the alarm about the growing number of cases.
The new restrictions, Beshear said, take effect at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 and will run through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13, and include:
• Limitation on indoor private gatherings to no more than two immediate families, not to exceed a total of eight people.
• Limitation on attendance at venue spaces, including funerals and weddings, but not houses of worship, to 25 people per room.
• No indoor dining will be allowed at restaurants and bars. Delivery and to-go, as well as outdoor serving, will be allowed, but mask restrictions will remain in place. Beshear also announced a $40 million fund has been established to help assist restaurants and bars affected by the restrictions, limited to $20,000 per business.
• Restrictions on gyms, bowling alleys, pools and similar facilites to 33 percent occupancy, with masks required, and group classes are prohibited. That same decision, he said, will be applied for all indoor recreation facilities, meaning no indoor practices for sports teams. Individual practices will be allowed, but masks are required.
• Schools will cease in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23 and move to remote instructions. Middle and high schools, Beshear said, will remain in remote instruction until Jan. 4. Elementary schools, under the restrictions, may reopen on Dec. 7, if their county is not in the red zone and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.
No restrictions, Beshear said, will be required of retail businesses nor hospitals and non-emergency procedures.
“None of these decisions are easy,” he said. “None of them are going to be popular, but now’s the time we make the decision on whether we are going to let our fellow Kentuckians get sick and more of them die or whether we’re going to take a stand against the third wave of this virus.”
He also acknowledged the criticism of the restrictions he has seen in the past.
“When we address COVID-19, action is unpopular but inaction is deadly,” he said.
During his update, Beshear said Kentucky was announcing 2,753 new cases and pointed out the top five days the state has seen have all been in the last week. Also on Nov. 18, Beshear announced 15 new deaths, including that of a 15-year-old Ballard County girl who had significant pre-existing conditions.
“We are in very difficult times where we’re seeing a lot of cases and a lot of deaths,” he said.
Beshear acknowledged that, with the recent announcements regarding the development of vaccines, there is “light at the end of the tunnel,” but, he said, action is necessary to bring as many people to that point in the future as possible.