FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - As Kentucky continues to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andy Beshear is ordering all bars to close and restaurants to operate at a limited capacity as well as urging schools to push their in-person start dates back.
Monday during his COVID-19 briefing, Beshear ordered freestanding bars to be closed and restaurants to operate at 25% of their dine-in capacity. The order goes into effect Tuesday and remains in place for two weeks until August 11.
Restaurants with outdoor seating will be able to operate at 100% capacity provided they follow social distancing guidelines. In a Facebook post, the Kentucky Restaurant Association is asking diners to continue supporting restaurants by dining-in, eating curbside, getting carryout, and purchasing gift cards.
The governor also made a recommendation that all Kentucky schools wait until the third week of August to start any in-person classes. He said schools need time to prepare and gather any personal protective equipment needed to start the school year.
Monday during his daily press briefing, Beshear said Dr. Deborah Birx with the White House Coronavirus Task Force urged his office to take statewide action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Four steps provided by the White House are being enforced by the governor, all of which will be in effect at once starting Tuesday:
- Mask mandate for people in public (Went into effect July 10)
- Recommended limiting of social gatherings to 10 people or fewer (Announcement made July 20)
- Bars to close for two weeks (Effective July 28)
- Limit indoor restaurant capacity to 25% with 100% outdoor capacity with social distancing (Effective July 28)
- Gov. Beshear’s recommendation: Schools to postpone in-person instruction until the third week in August
The governor showed off photos of crowded bars in downtown Lexington on Saturday night, saying the patrons were clearly not social distancing. He said Kentucky could turn into another hotspot state like Florida if action is not taken.
“It’s time to do the things we’ve got to do to control this virus,” Beshear said.
On Sunday, a post on the Kentucky Restaurant Association Facebook page questioned why discussions to restrict restaurants had been held without input from restaurant owners.
“We are tired of being kept out of the conversation when we’re desperately trying to stay in business,” the post said, “Restaurants are not the problem, Governor Beshear.”
The order for restaurants to scale back to 25 percent capacity comes four months after the original closure order. Some restaurant owners said they had found a way to survive by developing take out service and maximizing outdoor seating.
“We’re not losing as bad as we could, so I call it treading water at the moment, not drowning,” restaurant owner John Varanese said.
“I almost feel like it’s low hanging fruit,” he said. “It’s just easy to tackle the restaurant industry. You know, there’s always other businesses out there that don’t have the restrictions.”
Restaurant owner Anthony Lamas agreed.
“I don’t want to give any names but hardware stores and amusement parks and the zoo and groceries,” Lamas said. “I can walk in with my mask and see all these people without masks. But yet they’re kind of pointing the finger towards the bars and the restaurants.”
And now less than six weeks away from Derby, the hospitality industry’s biggest annual payday, dining reservations are lagging way behind. Some wonder if the new temporary restrictions will push more restaurants into closing for good.
“We’re going to see more and more close,” Kentucky Restaurant Association President Stacy Roof said. “And we will, but my fear is by going backward, we’re kind of escalating that.”
The governor continued his briefing by saying as of Monday, nine more people have died of COVID-19 in the state. New cases confirmed Monday were 522, bringing the statewide overall total to 27,601 since the spring.
Beshear also said an infant only 11 days old tested positive for the virus, one of 21 children under 5 years old who tested positive Monday.
In total, 588,926 Kentuckians have been tested for COVID-19.