Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday ordered that bars close and restaurants scale back indoor service in a new round of actions to combat a spike in coronavirus cases. On the same day, two more coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the Pennyrile Health District, including one locally.
Beshear ordered that bars close for two weeks, starting Tuesday. Restaurants will have to limit indoor capacity to 25%, though outdoor seating can be unlimited if social distancing guidelines are followed. Beshear stressed that his decisions follow recommendations from federal health officials to try to reverse the recent trend of escalating COVID-19 cases.
The clampdown comes weeks after Kentucky’s bars reopened and restaurants were allowed to increase indoor capacity to 50%. But the Bluegrass State has been hit by record or near-record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases for more than a week.
In defending his actions, the governor said: “It’s our state. It’s the lives of our people. And it’s our economy on the line. I believe that we are going to do the right thing.”
Beshear also recommended school districts wait until at least the third week of August to resume in-person classes to help curb the virus’s spread. State education officials said Monday it appears that fewer than a dozen school districts were planning to open in-person classes before Aug. 17. Lyon County Schools had already pushed its opening date to Aug. 24.
Beshear recently required that most people wear masks in public to try to curb the virus surge. Kentuckians should be prepared for the mask mandate to be extended, the governor said Monday. At present, the mandate is set to end Aug. 9.
He also recently reduced the number of people allowed at social gatherings from 50 to 10. The rule doesn’t apply to businesses, churches or wedding venues.
Meantime, two deaths were reported from over the weekend in the health district that includes Lyon, Caldwell, Crittenden, Livingston and Trigg counties. Also Monday, the governor reported nine deaths statewide to bring the death toll to 709. That did not include Monday’s death reported by Pennyrile District Health Department for Lyon County.
Since the pandemic began March 6 in Kentucky, there have been six deaths in the health district — four in Lyon County and one each in Crittenden and Livingston counties. The Lyon County death reported Monday was a 37-year-old male. The second reported Monday was a 61-year-old male in Livingston County.
The local death appears to have been an inmate at Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). Not only was that the first death at the prison, but the first case reported among prisoners. Only two staff members have tested positive for the virus.
No staff or prisoners have tested positive at Western Kentucky Correctional Center in Lyon County. Together, the two Lyon County lockups house more than 1,500 inmates.
More than half of Lyon County’s COVID-19 cases have been institutional, coming from either KSP or a local nursing home, and three of the four local deaths have now come from within one of the two. In fact, just fewer than two-thirds of Kentucky’s overall deaths — 467 as of Tuesday morning — have come from within congregate facilities.
Statewide, more than 27,600 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 173 from Pennyrile Health District.
The Associated Press and The Herald Ledger contributed to this report.