Many will complain that Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order placing new restrictions on in-person gatherings, restaurants, schools and event venues in the midst of the holiday season is unfair. But we firmly believe the governor is taking the steps necessary to slow an overwhelming increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in nearly every corner of Kentucky.
“It’s time to get control of this beast and I refuse to stand by and watch avoidable loss around us,” the governor said during Tuesday’s media briefing shortly before announcing that a record number of Kentuckians — 33 — lost their fight against the virus.
According to the state’s incidence rate map, only eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties aren’t considered red zone (25-plus COVID-19 cases per 100,000) and four of those orange zone counties are averaging 20-plus cases and closing in on being designated in the red zone.
At this point doing nothing is not an option. Unpopular or not, the new restrictions start at 5 p.m. Friday and run through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited. Businesses are encouraged to offer socially distanced outdoor seating, carryout and delivery.
Private social gatherings — including Thanksgiving dinner — are limited to eight people from a maximum of two households.
Gyms, pools and other indoor recreation centers are limited to 33% capacity. Masks must be worn while exercising, and group classes, practices and competitions are prohibited.
Theaters and event spaces, including indoor weddings and funerals, are limited to 25 people per room.
Office-based businesses are limited to 33% of employees, and those who can work from home are urged to do so. All businesses that can close to the public must do so.
All private and public K-12 schools in the state are to cease in-person instruction. Elementary schools may reopen for in-person instruction on Dec. 7 if their county is not in the red zone. Middle and high schools will continue virtual instruction until at least Jan. 4.
During Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Kentucky Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, while holding back tears, said officials “ran out of easy choices and decisions a long time ago.”
House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Angie Hatton and Rep. Derrick Graham, of Frankfort, were pleased with the governor's restrictions.
"We are supportive and urge Kentuckians to comply so we can get our state back in business," they said in a statement.
But some elected leaders, including 6th District U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, spoke out against Beshear's actions, saying the restrictions "will have a devastating and irreversible impact on Kentucky small businesses and their employees."
What we have been asked to do during the last eight months — limiting our contacts, practicing social distancing and wearing face masks in public — is not difficult or political. Instead of creating division, we expect our leaders to work together toward the common goal of crushing the coronavirus.