A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beshear asks schools to delay in-person until Sept. 28; new reopening guidance for bars, restaurants

Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday reported 275 new COVID cases and two deaths, raising Kentucky’s totals to 35,254 cases and 775 deaths. But the numbers come with an *Asterisk because of a technical issue with the state’s data processor that is causing a delay in some reporting.

The governor also asked that the state’s schools wait to begin in-person classes until Sept. 28, six weeks from now.

“It’s also six weeks from what I hope is the peak of this virus, six weeks from the last three weeks where we have been at an all-time high week in and week out, six weeks from a time when we just had a 6% positivity rate. Let’s face it, we’re trying really hard and we’ve taken good steps. Masks are working. But we do not have control over this virus. And to send tens of thousands of our kids back into in-person classes when we don’t have control of this virus, it’s not the right thing to do for these kids, it’s not the right thing to do for their faculty and it’s not the right thing to do as Governor.”

In addition, the Governor offered new guidelines for bars and restaurants operating in the Commonwealth, allowing bars to reopen and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity as long as people can remain six feet from anyone hwo is not in their household or group.

“We are still in a very difficult, dangerous place with a virus that is spreading so significantly right now,” the Governor said. “One of the foremost experts this morning talked about it raging in the United States. I believe we have stopped the exponential growth, but we can’t just stay where we are. We have got to start decreasing our cases.”

School Opening Guidance

Beshear and administration officials consulted with Kentucky teachers and school administrators on the new guidance.

He said the decision was driven by four factors: Kentucky’s cases being near a peak, an increase in infection rates among children across the U.S., the experience of school districts in other states, and families continuing to travel to hotspots for vacations against the advice of health officials.

“I think what all of the health care specialists said when we talked about reopening is we need to be looking at a decline. In other words, we need to get our positive rate down,” the Governor said. “On top of that, what we’re seeing are more outbreaks and more infections in kids. The two hardest things I do every day is read the deaths and the number of kids infected under 5. And it’s not just kids under 5. We’re having record numbers of children that are infected, and it shows this infection spreads to them when we still don’t know the long-term impact. What we do know is children have a harder time social distancing. And we can’t put a whole bunch of them in a classroom with a teacher right now. Other states that have tried to open this new school year are now having to close. We don’t want to start and stop. That may be more difficult on our children.”

Restaurants and Bars Update

La Tasha Buckner, the Governor’s chief of staff and general counsel, offered an update on bars and restaurants operating in the Commonwealth.

Buckner said the reopening and increase in capacity comes with new requirements to avoid another spike in COVID-19 cases. First, customers in both bars and restaurants will be required to remain in their seats, except when entering, leaving, or using the restroom.

Second, bars and restaurants will be required to halt food and beverage service by 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. local time.

“Third, as the Governor mentioned previously, the face-covering requirement has been extended as of Sunday for another 30 days,” Buckner said. “Therefore, just like in other businesses, all customers and staff must wear a face covering while in the bar or restaurant except when actively eating or drinking.”

The full list of requirements is posted on the Healthy at Work website.

Case Information

Thirteen of the newly reported cases were from children ages 5 and younger, including five who are less than a year old, Beshear said.

The deaths include a 60-year-old woman from Graves County and a 98-year-old woman from Lincoln County.

“We hope we are getting even better at treating this virus,” said Gov. Beshear. “But these are two families that still need our support, our green lights, those bells and most important, for us all to do the things we know will help prevent more tragic loss.”

As of Monday, there have been at least 700,417 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate currently stands at 5.71%. At least 8,738 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

Behavioral Health Care

Eric Friedlander, Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, also spoke about a new project that Kentucky has been selected to take part in to expand behavior health care treatment.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently informed Kentucky it had been selected to participate in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration.

“In addition to a more efficient payment system, more treatment options for serious mental illness are needed, and that includes attention to opioid addiction,” Secretary Friedlander said.

Initial results from an evaluation of the eight original states to participate in the program found positive outcomes across a range of factors, officials said.

Friedlander also provided an update about payment assistance to providers impacted by COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made $15 billion available to help cover lost revenue attributed to the coronavirus or to help defray the cost of expenses to prevent, prepare or respond to COVID-19. Providers may be eligible for approximately 2% of reported revenue from patient care. The application deadline is Aug. 28, and providers may call 866-569-3522 for more information.

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