As the red wave of critical coronavirus spread continues to consume most of Kentucky (and all of Lake Cumberland's 10 counties), Governor Andy Beshear took to the podium Wednesday evening to announce new restrictions aimed at reducing the virus' reach.
Topping the list is the closure of all public and private K-12 schools to in-person instruction beginning next Monday through January 4. The governor noted that elementary schools may reopen as soon as December 7 so long as they follow the Healthy at School guidelines and are not located within the red zone.
The governor added that public universities have taken the step on their own to go virtual until the end of the year and encouraged private institutions to do the same.
The new mandates also include the following, in effect beginning this Friday at 5 p.m. through Sunday, December 13 at 11:59 p.m.:
• Limiting private gatherings to no more than eight people from two immediate households.
• Limiting venue attendance (weddings, funerals, etc.) to no more than 25 participants per room.
• Closing indoor service at restaurants and bars. Curbside, takeout and outdoor dining may continue with strict mask and distancing enforcement. Gov. Beshear announced that $40 million in coronavirus relief funds has been allocated to assist the industry.
• Gyms, pools, bowling alleys, etc. are restricted to 33 percent capacity with no group classes allowed.
• Offices are also limited to 33 percent capacity and should encourage employees to work from home when possible.
Governor Beshear insisted the new mandates do not constitute a shutdown.
"Our economy is open," he said, "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.”
The governor noted that medical and retail facilities had not been included because healthcare providers have already been limiting elective services as needed and he is counting on stores to renew their commitment to enforcing the mask mandate.
"We need every Kentuckian to do their part," Beshear said, adding that the commonwealth has been "under attack and at war" with COVID-19 since the first Kentucky case was announced on March 6.