State waives alcohol renewal fees for bars, restaurants; new cases hit record

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state is not yet prepared to turn encouragement into increased enforcement but the dramatic increase in coronavirus cases may force its hand, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the governor announced another step to try to help bars, restaurants and temporary venues financially by waiving their alcoholic beverage renewal fees for a year.

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“We want this to help, to help those hit hard by the decisions we’ve had to make,” Beshear said, noting the waiver does not apply to producers, distributors or wholesalers.

Restaurants and bars were shut down for parts of the spring in response to the coronavirus and then only allowed to open partially. They currently are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, must require masks indoors and require patrons to be seated. The rules have continued to impact those businesses, many of whom fear the situation will only be worse and more costly when cold weather eats away at the outdoor spaces they’ve been able to use.

Beshear said businesses that already have paid their fees this year won’t have to next year and those that haven’t will have their fees waived.

“It’s another effort to try to give them some economic relief…we know it’s been difficult,” Beshear said.

The governor also said unprecedented surge in new cases, which hit a new record Thursday, is overwhelming health departments and contact tracers, meaning the surge is self-fulfilling.

“Right now we have mandates in place that should work…I don’t think at this moment more mandates or enforcement is the answer…we have to have compliance…but I am hearing from more and more local governments who are wanting enforcement and we are looking at ways to help them with tools like the Labor Department has,” Beshear stated.

“We’d better start doing things right or our options are going to be limited,” he added.

He still holds out hope the recommendations for “Red” counties will show results.

“It may take two weeks but if we do it, if we do the right things, it can lower the numbers,” he advised, citing Scott County as an example of one that went from “Red” to “Orange” in a week.

As for contact tracers who work with health departments to try to track down people who have had contact with those who have tested positive for COVID, the job has become almost impossible.

“They are overwhelmed, they can’t keep up,” the governor said, praising the workers for their efforts.

The numbers are not encouraging.

Beshear reported 2,318 new cases Thursday, a single-day record. That brought the state’s total to 115,277.

The positivity rate hit 6.5 percent with the number of people in the hospital at 1,102, the number in ICU at 291 and the number on ventilators at 129.

The governor reported 20 deaths, raising the state’s death total to 1,534.

Those reported lost to the virus include an 81-year-old woman from Boyd County; a 71-year-old man from Breckinridge County; a 52-year-old man from Bullitt County; an 83-year-old man from Carroll County; two women, ages 86 and 94, from Christian County; a 76-year-old man from Daviess County; a 75-year-old woman from Fayette County; four women, ages 78, 83, 90 and 102, and three men, ages 62, 78 and 80, from Jefferson County; a 93-year-old man from Laurel County; an 81-year-old man from Marshall County; an 81-year-old woman and an 83-year-old man from Martin County; and a 71-year-old woman from Muhlenberg County.

Overall, 80 of the state’s 120 counties are in the “red’ zone with another 38 in the ‘Orange.” Only two are in ‘Yellow’ and none in ‘Green.’

The new red zone counties for this upcoming week can be found here.

Wednesday, the United States recorded more than 100,000 new daily cases, the first time any country in the world has done so.

The Governor encouraged Kentuckians to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) is offering in collaboration with local and federal partners. To see the new free COVID-19 testing partnership locations and hours, click here. To see all COVID-19 testing locations in the commonwealth, click here.

To view the full daily report, incidence rate map, testing locations, long term-care and other congregate facilities update, school reports, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and other key guidance visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.