LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Andy Beshear said he will order bars and restaurants to close to indoor service between Nov. 20 to Dec. 13, saying it's a "tough but important step" to combat the surging coronavirus pandemic.
Beshear said bars and restaurants will be eligible for up to $10,000 in assistance from a $40 million relief fund established using the state's share of federal CARES Act funds.
Beshear also closed schools statewide to in-person instruction until January and announced new restrictions on private gatherings and events like weddings and funerals, and on gyms and recreational facilities.
"When addressing COVID-19, action is unpopular but inaction is deadly," Beshear said Wednesday.
The new restrictions begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 and last through Dec. 13:
- Bars and restaurants are closed to indoor dining and bar service. Takeout and delivery are still allowed.
- Gyms, fitness centers and pools are restricted to 33% of normal capacity, and group classes are prohibited.
- Indoor social gatherings will be limited to eight people from no more than two households. Beshear acknowledged this will be difficult to enforce but said he hoped Kentuckians follow the rules voluntarily.
- Indoor venues, event spaces and theaters are limited to 25 people per room. This includes weddings and funerals, but not churches or other places of worship. Beshear said he would have "recommendations" for religious gatherings on Thursday.
Stacy Roof, president of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, applauded the $10,000 grants Beshear will make available to restaurants, but said the money amounts a weekend night's worth of sales.
"It just doesn't cover a lot," she said.
She said restaurant owners wonder why their industry has been "carved out" and would like to see restrictions applied to a broader segment of the economy.
"Our operators are extremely disappointed," she said. "That's thousands of dollars in sales, a lot of product that will go to waste and a lot of staff that will be laid off."
'Terrifying' increase in cases
Beshear said Tuesday that he would implement new measures to slow the virus, which has rapidly spread in the Kentucky the last couple of months.
“This is terrifying … the numbers show no sign of relenting,” said Dr. Steven Stack, the Kentucky health commissioner, on Tuesday.
The state’s weekly caseload has nearly doubled in a month, reaching nearly 17,000 for the week of Nov. 9, according to figures shared Tuesday.
The rate of positive tests, which public health officials hope to keep under 5%, has risen to 9.1% as of Tuesday.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have tripled in the last two months, Stack said Tuesday, with the disease accounting for 15% of patients currently admitted.
As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, less space is available for people suffering from other ailments, he said. And there is higher risk of shortages in doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare practitioners who may contract it or be forced to quarantine, Stack said.
The virus is much more prevalent in Kentucky than at the beginning of the epidemic in March and April, when most public places were completely shut down.
But Beshear said Tuesday he is not considering a return to those full lock-downs because viral testing and treatment is significantly improved today.
He said he favors more “targeted” measures.
“Asking nicely hasn’t gotten the results that we need. We’ve got to take some strong actions to save lives,” Beshear said Tuesday. “We’ve got to accept the level of disruption necessary in order to stop the virus.”