State hopes to loosen some rules on restaurants next week; ‘MaskUp’ videos grow

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state hopes to be able to allow restaurants to expand capacity and provide some guidelines for bars to be able to reopen as the state continues to show signs of flattening out its surge in coronavirus cases.

But Gov. Andy Beshear said he is concerned residents will get complacent again when this “is the time residents” must do the most to continue curbing the spread of the virus.

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The governor reported 323 new cases Monday, pushing the state’s total in almost five months to 31,508. The state’s positivity rate fell slightly to 5.18 percent.

Meanwhile, other closely watched numbers were up slightly. A total of 612 people are in the hospital and 136 in ICU because of the virus.

“It’s at least good news for today,” Beshear said, noting Monday numbers, like those on Sundays, often are down.

The state reported another 12 kids under age 5 testing positive, including children in Fayette and Magoffin counties.

Other area counties with double-digit new cases includes Fayette and Jefferson, plus Madison with 13 and Jessamine with 10.

Unfortunately,  Beshear reported two new deaths Monday, raising the total to 744 Kentuckians lost to the virus.

The deaths include a 99-year-old man from Calloway County and a 75-year-old man from Floyd County.

Beshear unveiled a new public service campaign called “MaskUpKY” featuring a number of different state residents encouraging Kentuckians to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and exercising other health and safety steps.

“Facial coverings are working. We had to slow the growth first and we have. You have to slow down before you can change direction,” he said, using the analogy of driving a car.

And other groups are joining the effort. The Lexington Senior Center released its own “MaskUpLex” video Monday, urging people to wear facial coverings.

Beshear showed statistics starting in early June when the state’s surge first began.From June 8 to June 15, the number of cases increased 4 percent and then rose 21 percent, 13 percent, 48 percent and 52 percent during the next four weeks.

In the last two weeks, the increases have been 4 percent and 5 percent.

“The reduction from where we could have been is significant,” Beshear said, noting the state could have been having 1,000, 1,500 or more cases a day.

“I hope next week we will be able to increase the flexibility for restaurants…I hope on bars we can have better, stronger guidelines…we may have to consider a closing time, a curfew, which have seemed to be semi-effective in other state,” Beshear stated.

“We can beat this if we work together,” added Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “Please stay the course.”

“We know that if we can get the majority of Kentuckians to wear a mask when you go in public, we can make a major difference,” Beshear said. “If we want to get our kids back in school, reopen our economy, keep each other safe and get to a new normal, we need every Kentuckian to wear a mask or facial covering. It’s that simple.”

Expanded COVID-19 Testing
Beshear spoke Monday about coronavirus testing options in the state, including new free COVID-19 testing that is being provided by University of Louisville Health.

“We have more than 225 locations right now where you can get a COVID-19 test,” the Governor said. “Every region of the state has at least 29 options on where to get tested. If you haven’t had a test in the past two weeks, please go get one.”

The testing sites available under the program:

  • Downtown Louisville – 499 S. Brook Street
  • South Louisville – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, 1850 Bluegrass Avenue
  • Bullitt County – Medical Center South, 1903 W. Hebron Lane

The testing is free and available seven days a week. Appointments are required. Starting Aug. 5, Kentuckians can call 502-588-0414 to sign up.

In Northern Kentucky, new drive-through testing will be offered starting Thursday, Aug. 6, at the Atlantic Corporate Center, 25 Atlantic Avenue, in Erlanger. The testing is free, but by appointment only, and will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Governor said there are many private testing sites across the commonwealth, including:

  • 34 in Western Kentucky
  • 65 in Eastern Kentucky
  • 29 in Louisville and surrounding counties
  • 30 in Northern Kentucky
  • 34 in South Central Kentucky
  • 38 in Lexington and Central Kentucky

For additional information about each location, visit kycovid19.ky.gov.

New Flexibility for Schools
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who also serves as Secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, announced Monday new flexibility that the state is providing for the commonwealth’s schools.

Previously, she announced several moves designed to help schools navigate the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. Those measures included unlimited non-traditional instruction (NTI) days, removing the “average daily attendance” requirement for funding, expanding the care program and allowing districts to grant additional paid leave for COVID-19 emergencies.

Monday, Coleman said the state will provide expanded flexibility in the way districts provide online instruction.

“A lot of districts are moving to digital platforms. We have received requests to allow more flexibility for a variety of school staff to facilitate and support classes in online platforms,” Coleman said. “We have listened, and the Governor has issued an executive order to enact these changes. The goal of all of this is to empower our schools to meet the needs of the students and the parents where they are.”