Gov. Beshear announces new pandemic restrictions

FRANKFORT, Ky. — As promised, Gov. Andy Beshear announced new steps to take on the surge in the coronavirus pandemic, outlining a comprehensive plan he says is not aimed at shutting down the economy, but in restricting activities where the danger of spread is greatest.

The new mandates include:

  • Shutting down all public and private schools in the state, and converting to online learning, beginning on Monday. Elementary schools can reopen Dec. 7 if they are not in a red county. Middle and high schools will remain closed until Jan. 4.
  • Closing bars and restaurants to indoor service. Carryout, delivery and outside seating can continue. The governor also announced a $40 million fund to provide $10,000 grants to help small, independent establishments.
  • Limiting gym and fitness centers to 33 percent capacity, and requiring masks. All group classes are prohibited.
  • A maximum of eight people at private gatherings, consisting of people in one household plus one more household.
  • Limiting public venues to a maximum attendance of 25 people.
  • Businesses are encouraged to allow employees to work remotely and to close to the public, if possible.

With the exception of the school closings, all of the other restrictions are limited to three weeks.

“This is not, and will not be, a shutdown,” Beshear said. “Our economy is open, and there will be no closings based on essential or nonessential services. But today we are announcing significant, but surgical and targeted steps designed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our people.”

The governor’s new mandates were barely an hour old, when Republican leaders began voicing opposition.

“This is the first time in eight months that the governor has briefed, and make no mistake, it was a briefing, not a collaboration,” said Senate President Robert Stivers. “The decisions made today, made solely by the governor, were to limit and restrict many businesses that may not survive based on what was proposed.

“We have not been shown any data that would draw a rational basis to limit Thanksgiving in your home to eight people, when you can go to a private venue with 25 people. Nor were we presented any data that justifies a blanket policy to close public and private schools, especially when we are seeing the loss of a year of educational opportunities and destructive effects to the mental health of our youth. Kentucky is in a crisis, this is real, and the governor needs to start consulting with us for the sake of the commonwealth.”

The latest numbers show more than 2,700 new cases, raising the total to nearly 145,000. Beshear noted that the top five days of new cases have all occurred in the past week.

Fifteen more Kentuckians have died, bringing the death toll to 1,712

More than 1,500 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 359 in intensive care and 176 on ventilators.

The state’s positivity rate 9.13 percent.