FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear eliminated most of the commonwealth’s remaining COVID-19 health orders Friday with a few strokes of his pen and officially ended the news conferences he’d conducted multiple times a week — sometimes daily — since March 2020.
“After more than 15 months of struggle and sacrifice, we can say this: While COVID remains a threat, we are no longer in crisis,” Beshear said in his final COVID-19 conference.
About 47% of all Kentuckians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the time he spoke on Friday afternoon, according to Kentucky Public Health. Seniors, the group most urgently threatened by the novel coronavirus and prioritized earliest for vaccination, are vaccinated at a higher rate than any other group: 82% of Kentuckians over 65 have gotten a shot.
Dr. Lynne Saddler, who helps run the Northern Kentucky Health Department, said the governor’s words were a relief. She’s heartened by her department’s most recent data sets, which show that cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have all plummeted since January.
“We want to make sure that it stays low and goes even lower,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to get vaccinated, because when you look at the data, the graphs and the science, you can see very clearly the game-changer has been the vaccine."
Beshear is the last governor in the Tri-State to rescind his state’s health orders, which have included mask mandates, curfews for some businesses and limits on gatherings where COVID-19 was likely to spread.
His Ohio counterpart, Gov. Mike DeWine, did the same on June 2.
Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana acted sooner than either of them — his state rolled back its health orders in March and April.
"We're reaping the rewards of doing it right and getting back to normal, but let us never lose sight of what it cost to be here,” Beshear said Friday.
Kentucky Public Health estimates that 7,147 Kentuckians lost their lives to the virus over the course of the pandemic.
Let’s be specific. What can you do in the Tri-State this summer that you couldn’t before?
None of the three states has enforced capacity limits or social distancing requirements for events and businesses.
There are no curfews for businesses or private citizens in any of the three states.
Mask mandates apply only in limited situations.
Following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should still wear masks on public transportation and in health care settings such as nursing homes.
So it’s completely my choice whether I do the rest of these things?
In most settings, yes, but private businesses can still legally require customers to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Many of the nation’s largest retail companies, including Target and Kroger, have opted not to require masks in their stores.