State eases some venue rules, signs warn of another COVID surge

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, updated Kentuckians on the state’s Healthy at Work requirements, easing rules on large venues and clarifying the rules on weddings and funerals, gyms, pools, and bars and restaurants.

The Healthy at Work minimum requirements list has been simplified and now applies to all businesses, Beshear and Stack said.

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“We have fought really hard to get where we are – a much better place than in the fall and winter – allowing us to streamline some of our guidance,” Beshear said during his Monday afternoon briefing. “I hope people are able to enjoy some of these capacity increases. We can do so safely if we continue to wear our masks.”

The minimum requirements list includes specifications for:

  • Physical distancing;
  • Facial coverings;
  • Hand washing and sanitizing;
  • Ventilation;
  • Telework;
  • Common areas; and
  • Daily temperature/health checks.

Events with 1,000 or fewer people in a single space are limited to 60% capacity, or the maximum number of people that allows for physical distancing. Events with more than 1,000 people in a single space are limited to 50% capacity, or the maximum number of people that allows for physical distancing.

They currently have 40 percent and 35 percent limits.

Only a few types of businesses still have supplemental Healthy at Work requirements: health care facilitieswedding, funeral or memorial service venuesrestaurants and barspools and bathing facilities; and gyms, sports and exercise activities.

“What we’re doing today is simplifying our guidance so it’s easier for Kentuckians to follow and easier for them to stay safe,” said Dr. Stack. “I look forward to the day when we put COVID behind us and none of these requirements are necessary. The way we get there is for everyone to make the choice to get vaccinated. These vaccines are amazing tools to help us get our lives back.”

Beshear also said Black and Hispanic Kentuckians are no longer disproportionately represented among the commonwealth’s COVID-19 deaths.

“I’m proud to report in our newest statistics, we have now either achieved proportionate or even disproportionately low numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths among most groups of minority Kentuckians,” said Beshear. “For instance, Black and African-American Kentuckians make up 8.4% of the state’s population; to date, they make up only 8% of all of Kentucky’s COVID-19 cases and 8.1% of Kentucky’s COVID-19 deaths. This used to be 16% and it’s been cut in half.”

As of 4 p.m. Monday, April 19, the state reported the following COVID-19 numbers:

Kentuckians vaccinated (have received at least one dose): 1,665,196*

New cases today: 231
New deaths today: 4
New audit deaths: 5
Positivity rate: 3.46%
Total deaths: 6,347
Currently hospitalized: 402
Currently in ICU: 121
Currently on ventilator: 43

Of the 231 new cases, 168 were in people 49 or under, another indication of how new cases and COVID variants are becoming more and more prevalent in younger age groups.

Those age groups remain among those who have the lowest vaccination rates.

Top counties with the most positive cases today are: Jefferson, Trigg, Crittenden, Kenton and Fayette. Each county reported at least 10 new cases.

To see a list of those reported lost to the virus today, click here.

The state closed out last week with slightly more cases than the previous week and slightly fewer than the week prior to that, continuing to confirm the state has hit a plateau after 12 weeks of stead declines.

The state’s positivity rate, which is a better predictor of what is going to happen, was flat for three weeks and has risen the last two weeks and is starting the week up, Beshear.

“Let’s be clear, we will have a fourth wave if we don’t get vaccinated and continue safe practices,” Beshear stated.

The governor said the state could hit its goal of 2.5 million vaccinated people in as little as three weeks if it had a crush of people get the shots, but he admitted that wasn’t happening and that at best it likely would be the end of May before that mark was reached and the state is able to remove most restrictions.

When asked if a variety of factors were having a negative effect, he said yes, including the concerns over the Johnson&Johnson vaccine, which likely will be approved again for use later this week, and the large percentage of Republicans who have told pollsters they are not inclined to be vaccinated.

Those numbers are high in Kentucky but even higher in Tennessee.

“We have enough vaccines to reach out goal in three weeks, but it’s not going to happen,” Beshear admitted, noting the state is averaging about 125,000 vaccinations a week although that number could start to drop off.

“”To me it’s unfortunate” that some political groups oppose the vaccination. “This virus doesn’t care” about political affiliation or philosophy,” Beshear said.

“It would help if some leaders would be stronger on the need to get vaccinated,” Beshear, a Democrat, said referring to state Republican-controlled Legislature, state office holders and congressional delegation.

“All of this has gotten far too nasty…giving us reasons to hate each other,” he continued referring to social media posts.

To see all vaccination sites and free transportation options to and from vaccination appointments, visit vaccine.ky.gov. To see a list of vaccination sites that have openings this week, visit vaccinemap.ky.gov. If Kentuckians have questions, they should call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline, 855-598-2246 or TTY 855-326-4654 (for deaf or hard-of-hearing Kentuckians).

To view the full daily reportincidence rate map, information on testing locationsvaccinescontact tracingschool reports and guidanceguidance for health care providers and the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and more, visit kycovid19.ky.gov.