FRANKFORT, Ky. — Governor Andy Beshear extended Kentucky's statewide mask mandate for another 30 days at his Thursday news conference. He said that since wearing a mask was made mandatory, more people were wearing them and the state has seen fewer positive COVID-19 cases this week than past weeks.
"It's working," Beshear said from the podium at his daily news conference. "It's working.
He said that future mask mandates could be enacted 30 days at a time, but pleaded with state residents to wear them regardless of any kind of state order. The governor called it a small thing that people could do for such a large reward.
"If we want to get some things back open, then we have to pause," Beshear said. "If we want to continue to grow our economy, this is our way."
Well-wishes to Ohio Governor DeWine
Before taking questions from reporters, Beshear took some time to wish Ohio Governor Mike DeWine well after his recent positive COVID-19 test.
"I wish him a speedy recovery," Beshear said. "He has been a strong ally in the fight against COVID-19. I think it's just an example of how this virus can spread very aggressively and let's keep him in our thoughts."
State Fair limited to participants only
Beshear also announced that the Kentucky State Fair will go on, but attendance is limited to participants only. That decision was made by the fair board after consultation with public health officials. The determination of the meetings found that by limiting the attendance, a surge in positive COVID-19 cases would be averted.
Lot A exhibits, Midway concerts, entertainment and food vendors will not be featured in this year's state fair as a way to manage crowds as well as enforce social distancing and facial-covering requirements.
The World Championship Horse Show will be held without spectators and will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the US Equestrian Federation.
"This decision is going to allow Kentucky to have a state fair, when so many of our neighbors and others are not," Beshear said. "It's going to allow us to continue a tradition that shows how important this is for us while at the same time to take the necessary steps that we simply have to in the middle of COVID-19."
The fair will be held Aug. 20 through Aug. 30 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.
For more details, visit the fair's website.
Monday mandate raising number of occupants in public places
Govenor Beshear said the state is working on a new mandate that could be finalized as soon as next Monday and expectations ought to be that capacity for public spaces will increase again to 50%. He said that it was important for restaurants to prioritize outdoor seating, citing the safety factor.
"Even though it's hot ouside, it's important that restaurants don't move backwards on that because, again, everything we do is contingent on the virus," Beshear said. "More outdoor seating keeps the virus down and will put us in a better positiion."
Bars can expect to have an "enforced seating" rule. The governor said that bar patrons should expect to have an assigned seat in a bar and that they should sit in that seat unless making a trip to the restroom. All service and orders should take place at the table with the group or party that people come to the establishment with.
"I know that's going to be a different experience, but it's about the only way that we think we can do it and do it safely at the moment," Beshear said.
He also said that there ought to be the expectation that the last call for food or alcohol would be 10 p.m., mirroring a similar practice mandated by Ohio at the end of July.
Ky. COVID-19 numbers
On Thursday, Beshear reported 516 new COVID-19 cases and eight virus-related deaths, including a 68-year-old woman from Kenton County, for a total of 33,254 total positive cases since March 6 and 760 virus-related deaths. There are currently 701 people hospitalized with 140 patients in the ICU. A total of 8,523 have recovered. 12 of the new positive cases were kids under the age of 5.
He said that, at least in overall numbers, the state saw 247 fewer cases during Monday through Thursday of this week compared to last week.
"If these numbers continue, they are further evidence that wearing face coverings, wearing that mask, is truly helping Kentucky in so many different ways," Beshear said. "Our people, our economy, our kids, so let's keep it up."
First Lady Britainy Beshear called on Kentuckians Tuesday to donate face masks for students, educators and staff returning to school later this month through the launch of the new Coverings for Kids program.
“It’s more important than ever that we are proactive in preparing our schools for a safe return when that day eventually comes,” she said Tuesday.
Starting Aug. 11, people can drop off purchased or handmade masks at district donation centers. For more information on donating face masks, click here.
Free testing in NKY this week
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics now offers free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger starting Thursday. The site, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike, will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing will be available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria, starting Tuesday, Aug. 11. The free testing site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing.
Kentucky has administered 663,100 COVID-19 tests so far. To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
More Ky. case numbers
NKY Health reported that 2,878 people in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties have tested positive for coronavirus since March, with 833 active virus cases. As of Tuesday, 81 people have died of the virus and 1,964 people have recovered.
In 265 of Kentucky's long-term care facilities, 2,664 residents (454 active cases) and 1,470 staff (208 active cases) have tested positive for the virus; 480 residents and four staff members have reportedly died of the virus as of Wednesday.
Health and Family Services Cabinet Sec. Eric Friedlander announced Wednesday that the state would pay for clinical lab testing using CARES funds to make it easier and less expensive for staff and residents to be tested for COVID-19, now through the end of the year.
In 110 Kentucky childcare centers, 84 staff and 75 children have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday.
Restaurants reduce capacity; travel advisory updated
To prevent statewide shutdowns and case surges seen in other states, Beshear ordered restaurants to reduce indoor dining capacity to 25% and maximize outdoor seating when possible. On Tuesday, Beshear said he would look into possible capacity increases when Kentucky's positivity rate dips back under 5%.
The governor announced a travel advisory earlier this month, asking Kentuckians to avoid traveling to states with high COVID-19 positivity rates, and if they do travel to hard-hit areas, to quarantine for two weeks.
On Monday, the list of states on the travel advisory included Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina. Ahead of events in Louisville, including the 51st Street Rod Nationals this weekend, Beshear encouraged people attending from out-of-state to be responsible and get tested.
Beshear also recently enacted a 10-person limit on social gatherings, a delay of school start dates to the third week of August and a two-week shutdown for all bars.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: