Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered Kentucky bars to close and restaurants to go to 25% capacity for two weeks starting Tuesday, Jul. 28 at 5 p.m. to try to curve a rise in cases of COVID-19.
“This is going to hurt a lot of restaurants,” Beshear said Monday. “But the White House’s modeling shows that this is absolutely necessary to control the spread at this time.”
The restrictions do not affect outdoor seating for restaurants.
During his briefing Monday, Beshear said some bar and restaurant-goers have failed to follow guidelines around masks and social distancing. He showed photos of people gathered closely together at Kentucky bars without wearing masks.
After two weeks, Beshear said his “hope” is to lift restrictions on restaurants to 50% capacity, and open bars “in some new, different way.”
“He’s making a disastrous decision, in my opinion,” John Dant said, who owns The Back Door bar and grill in Louisville. Dant said with overhead costs, he would struggle to keep running at 25% capacity.
“It’s almost not even worth being open,” he said. He’s considering closing for two weeks and allowing his staff to collect unemployment. That would be a challenge, he said, but he’s even more worried about what happens after the two weeks are up.
“What’s he [Beshear] going to do two weeks from now?” he asked. “I don’t even think he knows.”
Dant said he feels bars and restaurants are being targeted, and is considering legal action.
The White House guidance recommends closing bars and restaurants because they are places where people spend long periods of time indoors, which increases the likelihood the virus will spread.
Beshear Asks Schools To Delay In-Person Starts
Beshear is also recommending that Kentucky school districts delay the beginning of in-person classes until the third week of August. The governor said he wants to get kids into the classroom as soon as possible.
“We have to do that, but we have to do it safely. And you can’t do that with an uncontrolled surge in the virus,” he said.
The governor said the delay will give officials time to “get this thing under better control,” and for the mask orders, restaurant and bar restrictions and crowd-size restrictions to have an impact on the spread of the deadly virus.
Coronavirus Cases Rising
Beshear said his decision to order restaurant restrictions came out of conversations with White House coronavirus adviser Deborah Birx, who warned during a visit Sunday that based on the infection rates in many communities, statewide action was needed.
“Our state government and the federal administration have significant agreement on what we need to do right now to make sure we don’t turn into Florida, Texas, Arizona,” Beshear said. Florida, Texas and Arizona are among a number of states that have seen a surge in cases and deaths after reopening their economies.
The state reported 522 new cases of coronavirus Monday, and a test-positive rate of 5.58%. That is above the 5% test-positive rate at which the White House and CDC advise rolling back reopening. Nine more Kentuckians have died as a result of COVID-19.
Beshear said the state is seeing an increase in the number of people in their 60’s dying from the virus.
There are six more child care centers that have reported cases of coronavirus, including six more staff members and five more children. Statewide, 44 child care centers have reported cases, including 38 total staff and 31 children.
“Kids can and do spread the virus,” Beshear said. “The level right now is in debate, but there is no question that they can and do spread it.”
Limited research shows children under the age of 10 may catch and spread coronavirus at lower rates than older children and adults.
Meanwhile, Beshear confirmed that Kroger has decided to end its drive-thru testing service. He said he’s looking to the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and other partners to continue offering the service.
“Our hope is to have a partner in place even by early next week,” he said.
Thousands Of Unemployment Claims From March and April Still Unresolved
On the bright side, Beshear said the state has ended the fiscal year with a $177.5 million surplus, rather than a large deficit, as was projected in previous months. Beshear said that will allow the state to add $162.5 million to its rainy day fund, or savings. The fund now totals $465.7 million.
“This extra amount to the rainy day fund is good, because we’re gonna need it,” he said, noting that fourth quarter receipts are down, and that the state is on the hook for paying out millions in unemployment insurance.
Officials say there are still 68,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance that have not been resolved. Of those, 4,900 were filed in March, and 22,000 were filed in April. Amy Cubbage, general counsel for the state’s Labor Cabinet, said 63,000 of those had been processed and passed onto adjudication.
“95% of the work is done on those claims,” Cubbage said, noting that many claims were processed by Ernst and Young, a contractor hired through CARES Act funding to help address the backlog.