FRANKFORT, Ky. — Restrictions on indoor dining and capacity limits for venues, gyms and other Kentucky businesses will be allowed to expire on Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced as his Thursday COVID-19 briefing.
Indoor dining can resume at 50% capacity on Monday. Those establishments must end food and beverage service at 11 p.m. each night before closing at midnight, as they did before restrictions went into effect on Nov. 20. Patrons and staff will be required to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking.
Venues, theaters, event spaces and professional services can also go back to 50% capacity starting Monday, but Beshear said employees who can work from home should continue to do so. Gyms, pools and other recreational spaces can also go back to 50% capacity, and masks will be required inside those facilities.
"We think this limited step is going to really help us, but we've got to enforce that mask mandate. We have to. That's the way we don't have to take steps like this again," Beshear said.
Both Beshear and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack advised Kentuckians to continue limiting their home gatherings to eight people from no more than two households for the foreseeable future, at least until more people can be vaccinated.
"We always expected this to be a time-limited shock to the system," Beshear said of the restrictions. "That's what worked in July, and we are seeing trends in the data to show that our steps have been working. The question is: Will what people did over Thanksgiving potentially overwhelm that?"
The governor promised to unveil new guidance for schools early next week. All K-12 schools were required to move to online in November, with middle schools and high schools allowed to resume in-person learning on Jan. 4. Elementary schools were able to resume in-person instruction this week as long their county was no longer in the red zone on Kentucky's COVID-19 incidence rate map.
Kentucky breaks COVID-19 daily case record
The governor announced 4,324 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest number of cases seen in a single day. Since the start of the pandemic, 213,450 COVID-19 cases have been reported statewide.
Beshear, who a day earlier said that Kentucky cases showed signs of "plateauing," explained Thursday's high numbers could be the delayed result of people gathering for Thanksgiving. Despite the record-breaking case number, Kentucky is still tracking about 800 fewer cases than last week, he said.
"We could be moving in the right way, but still Thanksgiving has a major impact. I can tell you that if we're seeing Thanksgiving's impact, it's a lot less than what we are seeing in some other states," Beshear said.
He also reported 28 new virus-related deaths Thursday, adding to the 2,146 COVID-19 deaths since March.
For the seventh straight day, Kentucky’s COVID-19 test positivity rate dipped to 9.13%. Kentucky's fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, is down to 1.02% from 1.27% this time last month.
Hospitalizations remained high Thursday, with 1,756 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 442 people in intensive care units and 231 on ventilators. Beshear said Tuesday that inpatient and ICU bed capacity has become a concern, especially in Northern Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky and Southern Kentucky counties.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 3,170 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 14,126 people who have recovered from the virus on Thursday. Since the pandemic began, 128 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
First vaccine could be administered in Kentucky by Wednesday
Kentucky expects to receive five shipments of COVID-19 vaccines this month to be distributed to residents and staff in long-term care facilities as well as frontline healthcare workers. Educators and school staff will be third in line to receive vaccines, and plans to distribute those doses are forthcoming.
The first of these vaccine shipments is expected to arrive next week, and Beshear said Kentucky may administer the first vaccine here as early as Wednesday.
Three of those shipments will total nearly 150,000 doses from both Pfizer and Moderna, and the total number of doses in the remaining two shipments is still to be announced. The state previously announced it would only ship doses for healthcare workers in 11 Kentucky hospitals, but it now plans to distribute vaccines to every hospital in Kentucky.
Shortly after the governor's briefing ended Thursday, a federal advisory panel concluded that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for use in people over age 16. The FDA is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. Pfizer's vaccine has already been approved by governments in Canada and the UK.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said although the COVID-19 vaccines show promise, questions remain about how long their protection lasts. They will also likely not be available to the general public until spring or summer. Until then, he urged Kentuckians to limit their contact with others, cap the number of people at home gatherings and wear masks in public.
"The vast majority of Kentuckians understand that this is a serious problem, that our actions determine our fate and that their actions, individually and collectively, really matter," he said.
Where to get tested for free in NKY
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike.
The site is 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 is available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: