As coronavirus cases surge across Kentucky and the number of counties in the most dangerous level continue to increase — despite three weeks of targeted recommendations to slow the virus's spread — Gov. Andy Beshear issued new restrictions on Wednesday.
“Action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly,” Beshear said at his daily briefing.
The actions include shutting down in-person schooling on Monday, stopping indoor service in bars and restaurants at 5 p.m. Friday, and placing further limits on at-home social gatherings.
The Democratic governor's new rules were met with criticism from Republican legislative leaders, who have already said they will consider limiting the governor's emergency powers during the upcoming 2021 session. They criticized Beshear for not including them in any pandemic planning, and asked for Kentucky-specific data to support his actions.
Senate President Robert Stivers said: “This is the first time in eight months that the governor has briefed us, and make no mistake, it was a briefing, not a collaboration. The decisions today, made solely by the governor, were to limit and restrict many businesses that may not survive based on what was proposed. We have not been shown any data that would draw a rational basis to limit Thanksgiving in your home to eight people when you can go to a private venue with twenty-five people. Nor were we presented any data that justifies a blanket policy to close public and private schools, especially when we are seeing the loss of a year of educational opportunities and destructive effects to the mental health of our youth. Kentucky is in a crisis, this is real, and the governor needs to start consulting with us for the sake of the commonwealth."
House Speaker David Osborne said Health Commissioner Steven Stack gave them an informative, 20-minute presentation, but “The governor answered questions for less than 10 minutes and failed to provide any contact-tracing-based data on where cases are spreading in Kentucky. He must be prepared to directly answer the same questions we face from our constituents every single day. While we take this virus seriously, we will not be cover for his unilateral decision-making. Working with the legislature means more than calling us an hour before making his pre-determined edicts public. This kind of move is not leadership; it’s misleading.”
Other new restrictions include:
- Restaurants and bars — No indoor food or beverage consumption; carryout and delivery encouraged; socially distanced outdoor seating allowed.
- Private social gatherings — Up to eight people from a maximum of two households
- Gyms, fitness centers, pools and other indoor recreation facilities — 33% capacity limit, maintained at six feet apart; no group classes, team practices or competitions; masks must be worn while exercising. This does not include college or professional athletics.
- Venues, event spaces and theaters — Each room will be limited to 25 people. This applies to indoor weddings and funerals.
- Professional services — Office-based businesses limited to 33% of employees; all employees who are able to work from home must do so; all businesses that can close to the public must do so.
The release noted that earlier this month, Beshear waived for a year renewal fees for alcoholic-beverage licenses of Kentucky restaurants, bars and temporary venues to help during the pandemic.