FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky’s mask-wearing mandate to fight the coronavirus spread is extended for 30 days, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday, confirming what he has been saying would happen. He also extended the 10-person limit on neighborhood and family gatherings.
In addition, the Kentucky State Fair now will only be for competitors with no entertainment, vendors or other outside activities, according to Beshear and Fair Board President Steve Wilson.
On the masks, Beshear said he expects to extend the masks mandate every 30 days until some significant change in the numbers occur.
“I can certainly see extending it until we have significant control over the virus. I would like to see our positivity rate well south of 4 percent. We also want to see what kind of effect it is having, we may find we can do some other things, open other things, expand capacities if we keep wearing them,” Beshear stated.
On the State Fair, Beshear said the decision to limit it to participants was, “The right thing to do.”
The State Fair is set Aug. 20-30 at the Expo Center in Louisville.
“All the agriculture-related competitions are still going to happen, the 4-H-type shows and events,” Beshear noted. “Those are the ones we want to preserve.
Entry to the Fair will be to “credentialed participants” only, Wilson said.
While people can attend the Kentucky Kingdom which is “right across the street” from the Fairgrounds in Kentucky, they will not be able to enter the Fair to stroll the Midway or take part in other events like they traditionally have been able to do.
“People can go to Kentucky Kingdom, but they can’t come to the Fair unless they are a participant, people who have credentials,” Wilson said.
“We are one of only a few states that are going to have any kind of Fair at all,” added Beshear, noting it will have a “big economic impact” on the Fair Board and tourism.
“Tourism everywhere has taken a hit,” the governor added, saying the state hopes a change in federal rules or new federal funding will allow the state to help offset some of those losses with financial resources.
The World Championship Horse Show will be held without spectator following national equestrian association and state and federal health standards, Wilson said.
The fair will feature wider aisle ways, reduced occupancy, increased hygiene accessibility and facial covering requirements. In an effort to manage crowds and social distancing, Lot A exhibits, Midway, concerts, entertainment and food vendors will not be featured in this year’s fair.
“By hosting a participant-only event, fair officials can more effectively enforce social distancing and facial covering requirements as well as gather the necessary information to perform contact tracing,” said Beshear. “I appreciate the board’s willingness to be agile, and their efforts to ensure that the health and safety of Kentuckians remains a top priority.”
“We are proud that we are having the fair, but obviously the health and safety of our community is uppermost in our minds and we’re delighted that we will at least be able to have the horse show and livestock contestants, the 4H-ers and the FFA kids,” said Wilson.
Agriculture is one of the state’s leading and most vital industries. There are nearly 76,000 farms in Kentucky, contributing about $45.6 billion to Kentucky’s economy each year.
In addition, Beshear said new rules would be announced Monday for bars and restaurants, but the changes will include a return to 50 percent capacity, mandatory masks, and encouraging a focus on outside seating.
“We don’t want restaurants to move backwards,” Beshear said.
Bars will have a mandatory seating which will be enforced, Service must be at the bar or a table with everyone sitting down. Masks and social distancing also still must be followed, he said.
“It’s difficult, a different experience, but it’s the only way to do this safely,” Beshear said.
A 10 p.m. curfew will be in place with the last food or drinks to be served then and “an hour or so” to let people finish and get out, the governor described.
Beshear announced 516 new cases, bringing the state’s total on the five-month anniversary of the first case in the state to 33,254.
For this week, the state has confirmed 247 fewer cases than Monday through Thursday of last week, the governor said.
“At least in numbers, it appears that we are not only slowing, but we also are stopping the escalation. Wearing masks works, social distancing works,” he stated.
The state has recorded 674,490 tests, including 11,390 from Wednesday.
The positivity rate remained unchanged at 5.51 percent. That number, plus an increase in people in the hospital to 701 and in ICU to 140 still are cause for concern.
“We ought to be pretty worried about those,” he said.
Of the new cases, 12 are in children under 5.
Jefferson County had 148 new cases, Fayette 33, Madison 18, Franklin and Laurel nine each, he said.
“This isn’t the flu. Let’s treat it like the danger it is,” he said.
Beshear reported eight deaths, bringing the state’s total to 760.
The deaths reported Thursday include a 68-year-old woman from Bell County; an 86-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 94-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man from Franklin County; an 87-year-old man from Graves County; a 78-year-old woman from Jefferson County; a 68-year-old woman from Kenton County; and an 84-year-old woman from Ohio County.
“We’ve had major wars that we’ve gone through, at least in the last 40 years, where we’ve lost fewer Kentuckians than those who we’re going to lose to Covid-19,” said Beshear. “So let’s remember that just because we don’t see numbers like New York had or Florida is going to experience, that doesn’t mean this isn’t hitting Kentucky really hard.”
Three more child care centers also reported cases, bringing to 114 that have at least one coronavirus case associated with them. The numbers include 89 staff and 77 children, according to the state numbers.