Governor renews restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Calling it a “terrifying time,” Gov. Andy Beshear announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants, some other businesses, schools and even family gatherings for a three-week period starting Friday.

In some cases, the school restrictions extend into early January.

The governor discussed the regulations with industry groups, local and legislative leaders and others in conversations Tuesday and Wednesday. The meeting with legislators came just before his briefing Wednesday.

“We are not going to surrender to the coronavirus, we are not going to throw our hands up and accept the deaths in brings…we are going to fight to protect the lives of our neighbors,” Beshear said, acknowledging the steps will be hard.

“These are targeted decisions,” he added, noting they are based in scientific evidence, health expertise and the lessons the nation has learned in treatment and control, since the virus first surfaced in the state in March.

“It is the most difficult battle we have faced…let’s buckle down…we need everyone’s help…these are difficult decisions, I know they all won’t be popular,” he said, calling it the most important thing he will be asked to do as governor.

Many of the questions asked by the media following his announcement Wednesday dealt with enforcement, which will depend largely on local governments and health departments, especially those impacting bars and restaurants, gyms and health clubs and businesses such as cheerleading camps.

The governor announced a $40 million fund to provide bars and restaurants $10,000 to offset losses and to help pay for outdoor seating arrangements such as tents and heating.

The new rules (the links to all the rules below) ban in-person seating and encourage drive-through and carry out service at most bars and restaurants. It does allow continued outdoor seating as long as masks and social distancing and group sizes are enforced.

Those businesses could run afoul of enforcement because of business and alcohol licenses. The same could apply to gyms and other businesses that have health inspections.

Gyms can’t have large in-person classes and masks must be worn at all times. Capacity will be restricted to 33 percent.

Indoor recreation such as pools and cheer camps must follow the rules adopted Wednesday by the Kentucky High School sports oversight body, which stopped fall and winter sports until Dec. 13.

The bar, restaurant, gym and related rules go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until midnight Dec. 13.

In addition, the governor said schools will stop in-person learning effective Monday. That mandate will continue through Jan. 4 for middle and high schools. Elementary schools can return to in-person instruction Dec. 7 if their county is not in a “red” zone.

The governor announced 2,743 new cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 144,753.

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

He also announced 15 deaths, including a 15-year-old girl who had other medical conditions. The state now has recorded 1,712 deaths.

Those reported lost to the virus Wednesday include a 15-year-old girl from Ballard County; a 60-year-old man from Barren County; a 75-year-old man from Caldwell County; a 90-year-old man from Calloway County; two women, ages 78 and 91, from Christian County; an 87-year-old man from Clay County; a 43-year-old man from Fayette County; a 78-year-old man from Hancock County; two women, ages 32 and 73, from Jefferson County; a 78-year-old man from Marshall County; a 68-year-old woman from McCracken County; an 86-year-old woman from Nelson County; and a 79-year-old woman from Pike County.

The positivity rate has climbed to 9.13 percent and hospitalizations continue to reach “scary” levels, including 1,553 people, up 32 from Tuesday, in the hospital with 359 in ICU. A total of 176 people are on a ventilator.

“Our challenge isn’t going to be running out of beds, it’s going to be running out of people to staff them,” he warned, repeating an admonition he’s stated for more than two weeks.

Response was swift from the political aisles.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr issued a statement critical of the governor, saying, “Governor Beshear’s sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions announced today will have a devastating and irreversible impact on Kentucky small businesses and their employees. Accordingly, I call on the Governor to do more than his empty gesture to set up a paltry and woefully inadequate bureaucratic assistance program with federal CARES Act funds that should have been spent months ago. Instead, I strongly urge the Governor, on behalf of my constituents who will lose their businesses and their jobs because of his actions, to contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi to demand she immediately end her partisan and reckless obstruction of H.R. 8265, stand-alone legislation I have co-sponsored to provide $135 billion in forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program to distressed small businesses.”

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers sounded a similar negative note.

“This is the first time in eight months that the Governor has briefed us, and make no mistake, it was a briefing not a collaboration. The decisions 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 twenty-five 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,” Stivers said.

But others countered the steps weren’t about politics.

“As long as I have known Gov. Andy Beshear, I have known him to be a leader who is willing to make tough decisions. I want to thank Gov. Beshear for always being willing to make the hard decisions especially when those decisions literally mean the difference between life and death,” said Colmon Elrdige, chair of thr Kentucky Democratic Party.

“Every decision the governor has made regarding the COVID-19 crisis has been made after consulting public health experts and taking into consideration any state actions impact on schools, businesses, our ability to come together as families to celebrate or mourn, and our ability to return to places that nourish our spirits such as churches and houses of worship. These decisions, while not easy, have been made because of the clear evidence about the spread of the virus in our communities. I also know that Governor Beshear understands and respects the enormous financial, emotional, and mental toll the pandemic has had across the Commonwealth.

“As a citizen, it has pained and frankly angered me to see this public health crisis politicized. As a country and as a Commonwealth, we once respected the idea that in times such as these, science, not partisanship, would define our outcomes. Now is not the time for our leaders and public servants to play politics with people’s lives or refuse to take science seriously. People are dying. Small businesses are hurting. Communities of color and communities with lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare are disproportionately suffering and dying,” Elrdige

“Like most parents, my wife and I would love nothing more than for schools to be open as they were this time last year. Yet as parents, we know too well the worry of sending our children safely to school. We hear the voices of educators worried about the health risks of coming to school or driving a bus and contracting COVID or worse, transmitting it to a loved one.

“The decision could not be more clear. Will leaders stand on the side of life, or will they, as they did in March, stand on the side of partisan, petty, and frankly, deadly politics? The time for grandstanding is over, as every minute so called leaders spend spreading false information and fighting this Governor, is a minute we are losing to COVID-19. I am glad to have leaders like Governor Beshear and Lt. Governor Coleman, who refuse to wave the white flag to COVID-19. Defeatism is not who we are as Kentuckians or as Americans. I hope leaders on both sides of the aisle will show the same resolve,” he concluded.

The Kentucky Education Association also waded in.

“This afternoon, Governor Andy Beshear showed that he is the right leader at the right time, willing to make hard decisions for the greater good.  This decision will save the lives of students, educators, parents and grandparents. His decision to use his executive authority to close all middle and high schools to in-person learning through January, with the possibility of some elementary schools opening to students again on December 7, is a dramatic step, but certainly, it is a step that will save lives,” the group said in a statement.

“By every available measure, the recent growth of coronavirus infections in Kentucky is alarming and presents a clear and present danger to the entire state.  Turning this situation around will take each of us – all of us – working together for the collective good.  It is a test of our spirits, but it is also a test of our empathy and our humanity.

Every student, every educator, and every parent in Kentucky has had their life turned upside down by the coronavirus.  No one wants any of this, but we cannot simply ignore it; it will not magically disappear.  The only thing that will change the situation and get our children back in school, back on the playing field, and back to normal is if every single Kentuckian does what is required to protect themselves and their loved ones.  Wear a mask; wash your hands; stay home whenever possible; limit non-essential activities; and limit your contact with people outside your household.  In the absence of a critical mass of people willing to voluntarily make those sacrifices over the last few months, the Governor had no choice but to act,” the group concluded.

Beshear said the fight with the virus has gotten to the point to take serious steps to try to curb in to get to the point where vaccines will start being available early next year.

“Since March 6 – the day Kentucky had its first confirmed case – we have been under attack and at war with the coronavirus. It has upended our routines, damaged our economy, threatened our children’s education and taken far too many lives,” Gov. Beshear said. “Now, it is time for Kentucky’s third counterattack on the coronavirus. Let me be clear about a few things. This is not, and will not be, a shutdown. 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.”

“While Kentuckians sacrificed a lot to keep Kentucky cases comparatively low early on, the state has experienced a 400% increase in positive cases over the past nine weeks, and the third spike shows that Kentuckians need to buckle down and comply with existing orders, like wearing a facial covering, while adopting new requirements.”

The Governor said requirements for restaurants; bars; social gatherings; indoor fitness and recreation centers; venues and theaters; and professional services are effective at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. See the full executive order here.

Restaurants, Bars – No indoor food or beverage consumption; carryout and delivery encouraged; socially distance outdoor seating

To help offset the financial impact on restaurants and bars, the Governor also announced he is dedicating $40 million in CARES Act funding to provide qualifying entities $10,000 in relief for various expenses, with a maximum award of $20,000 per business entity. Businesses with at least 50% of their sales via drive-through will not be eligible. To focus on locally owned businesses, publicly traded companies are not eligible to apply. Applications are scheduled to open Nov. 30 and close Dec. 18. Businesses will be required to remain in compliance with all public health orders. Applications will be processed in the order they are received, and funds will be awarded until they are exhausted. Additional details on where to apply will be forthcoming.

Earlier this month, the Governor also waived alcoholic beverage renewal fees for Kentucky restaurants, bars and temporary venues for 12 months to help during the pandemic.

Private social gatherings – Up to eight people from a maximum of two households

Gyms, fitness centers, pools, other indoor recreation facilities – 33% capacity limit; group classes, team practices and competitions prohibited; masks must be worn while exercising

Venues, event spaces and theaters – Each room will be limited to 25 people. This applies to indoor weddings and funerals, but excludes in-person worship services, for which the Governor will provide recommendations Thursday.

Professional services – Office-based businesses limited to 33% of employees; all employees who are able to work from home must do so; all businesses that can close to the public must do so

In addition, new requirements for schools will begin Monday, Nov. 23. See the executive order here.

Schools – All public and private schools (K -12) to cease in-person instruction:

  • Middle and high schools will remain in remote or virtual instruction until at least Jan. 4, 2021.
  • Elementary schools may reopen for in-person instruction Dec. 7 if their county is not in the red zone and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.

“As for our schools, I want to thank everyone who is working to continue to educate our children and to make sure they have access to healthy meals,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our children are resilient, but they are sacrificing so much and we need them to sacrifice even more right now so we can protect them from this surge in cases.”

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

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